TOKYO2020 MY LEGACY #04: Uchu Tomita (TOKYO2020 Paralympics Competitive Swimmer)
TOKYO2020 MY LEGACY #04: Uchu Tomita
Born in Kumamoto city, Kumamoto.
Began swimming at three years old, and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a second-year in high school.
Started para-swimming in 2012, and set a new Asian record of 400m freestyle in S11 class at the 2017 Japan Para Swimming Championships.
Mr. Tomita won silver medals in the 400m Freestyle and 100m Butterfly events at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, and is widely expected to win a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Interview date: September 13th 2020.
Feelings right now and Challenges for the future
I wasn’t upset when I heard the news about the postponement of the Paralympics.
I am taking the postponement positively as I feel there are lots to do in terms of my training and also of social maturity of Tokyo as a host city of the Paralympics.
I have been having a concern about the social maturity.
“ If the Tokyo Paralympics take place in the summer 2020, it might bring less value or interests to the society than it should be. As I feel we are not ready for enjoying them.”
The necessity of financial independence as content
Recently, the media has often talked about the Paralympics, although it is not from the popularity of it. It comes from a sense of duty to liven up the parasports.
Of course, I’m grateful that they talk about Paralympics and para-sports on TV.
However, I’d like to make it grow in that it becomes content which people “want to watch.” As a result, financial independence is required.
Specifically, I hope the situation that if the media features para-athletes on the program, it leads to high viewer ratings.
Then, how is the current situation? I think the Paralympics is not the content that has great market-value right now.
We need to improve it in terms of many aspects such as content power as a game and the influence of each athlete.
The effort is required to create a market that doesn’t exist yet.
Although I could focus on marketing and branding of myself or para-sports as I could have more time because of the postponement,
I can’t feel a good response yet. “The situation is tough”
That’s my honest feeling right now.
To get a lot of interests naturally ≒ To get market-value
I really appreciate that there are many passionate fans, however it is not enough.
Nevertheless, through my experience in the promotion of parasports, I feel there are still a lot of things to be done so that the Paralympics get market-value.
So, how can we improve its value? I still haven’t got the answers.
However, I just think that the Paralympics needs to become the content that can get a lot of attention as if it’s natural.
For that, I tell myself that I need to have a broad vision to create an action that involves others while I do my best as an athlete.
Current feeling towards TOKYO2020
First of all, I hope things get back to normal as soon as possible.
I believe that after the situation with COVID-19 getting better, we can not say that the Olympics and the Paralympics Games should be held until people around the world want them to be held.
I don’t want the game to be held just for myself. So, I have mixed feelings.
Then, just keep preparing for the games is what I can do now.
No matter when the game will be held, all I have to do is to show my best performance there.
I absolutely want to show my growth as a new record.
Legacy to Create at TOKYO 2020
During the Paralympic Games, I’m sure that many people will have a chance to feel the efforts and thoughts of para-athletes.
I hope people in the society will change the way to make relations with people with disabilities, or people whom they feel “different” from them after the Paralympics in Tokyo.
If the people in the society have chance to have positive feelings to the people with disabilities not only with compassion of feelings of “difference” after the Tokyo Paralympics, I think that is a LEGACY.
I would be appreciated if people in a society feel that person with disabilities is closer to them than before, or even have the feelings of respecting them.
When you see a blind person walking, you remembered the para-athletes on TV, and you think, “I’ll talk to him or her…” “I wonder if he or she is having trouble with something as I watched on TV…”
In this way, I believe that it is beneficial for society if the change, which we can consider the others’ inner sides, happens to each person.
The important thing is “comfortable distance”
I was not disabled until I was a high school student.
As soon as I changed my position as a person with disabilities, the new people I met treated me differently.
The way people looked at me, the way they talked, and the atmosphere were very different just because I was blind and had a white cane.
A cane will filter my personality… How strange is this?
I hope the society that everyone stays at the same distance without having strange filters or barriers, and everyone can touch us casually with a natural sense of distance.
TOKYO 2020 LEGACY for Mr. Tomita
Legacy as a para-athlete
I want to achieve something that no one else in the world has ever done.
Blind people and people with disabilities are at least in trouble with more things than healthy people, but I feel that I have to become something that people admire to turn them over somehow.
I want people to praise purely without paying attention to the part of the difference such as blind.
I think that we need para-athlete stars in Japan as well.
I suppose the stars admired by everyone, regardless of who is healthy or has disabilities, can change the world.
Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of talent, so it’s difficult to be a person who is admired by people. I’ll do my best to become a familiar person to people.
Legacy as a para-swimmer representing Japan at TOKYO 2020
As I have been training as a para-swimmer, I feel the environment, or the facilities, are not well organized enough in Japan.
I have a strong desire to be the part of the founders of better environment for para-athletes so that the young players will head to the next Paris games in the better and easier ways through the Tokyo games.
I’m thinking, “What can I do to create LEGACY that connects after TOKYO 2020?”
What should I be? What are the meanings of the para-athlete like me?
I think the TOKYO 2020 is a challenge for me to create something connected to Paris and beyond.
My legacy for Mr. Tomita
I want people who always support me to sincerely think, “I’m glad I’ve been doing hard with you.”
When the TOKYO 2020 is over, the days we’ve been fighting together will shine as everyone’s memory… That may be the best LEGACY for me.
September 13th 2020 text and images are by Tanaka
Translated by Sakika Fukushima