TOKYO2020 MY LEGACY インタビュー

TOKYO2020 MY LEGACY # 06: Wheelchair engineer Toru Ozawa (OX Engineering Co., Ltd.)


TOKYO2020 MY LEGACY # 06: Wheelchair engineer Toru Ozawa (OX Engineering Co., Ltd.)

TOKYO2020 MY LEGACY # 06: Wheelchair engineer Toru Ozawa (OX Engineering Co., Ltd.)

This time, MY LEGACY is Mr. Toru Ozawa, an engineer involved in the development, manufacture and sale of three-wheeled athletics wheelchairs called racers at OX Engineering Co., Ltd. (Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture).

Mr. Ozawa has made more than 1,200 athletics wheelchairs so far. Leading athletes not only in Japan but also overseas use athletics wheelchairs manufactured by Mr. Ozawa.

This time, Mr. Nobukazu Hanaoka, who was interviewed in # 01, introduced us, and we had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Ozawa with the kindness of OX Engineering Co., Ltd.

In this interview, we asked Mr. Ozawa, who supports the competitive life of para-athletes as an engineer, about his knowledge and thoughts about his work … and MY LEGACY.

The reason for becoming a wheelchair engineer was the Nagano Paralympics

In the summer of 1998, I joined OX Engineering Co., Ltd., where I currently work.

The reason I joined the company was because I was interested in seeing the Nagano Paralympics Ice Sledge Speed Race held that year on TV and learning about the company that made the parts.

Since then, for over 15 years, as a wheelchair engineer, I have been making athletics wheelchairs for para-athletes.

There are two main reasons why I have been involved in making wheelchairs for athletics for many years.

One is that if the person in charge changes, it may not be possible to grasp what kind of wheelchair was made in the past, so to prevent that from happening.

The other is that if the person in charge is the same, communication with the players will be smooth.

For this reason, some of the players in charge, such as Tomoki Suzuki, who has been appointed as the representative of Japan for the Tokyo Paralympics, have been working on wheelchairs for decades.

Wheelchair engineers start their careers with no experience

Until I joined the company, I didn’t know much about the sport of wheelchair athletics.

I didn’t know anything about wheelchairs in the first place, so I remember being inexperienced at the beginning.

For the first year or so after joining the company, I worked on assembly and processing of frame parts.

When I think about it now, I think my boss at that time was also looking at my aptitude.

It was before the 2000 Sydney Paralympics that I became fully involved in athletics wheelchairs.

Before the tournament, there was an in-house system called “support athletes” that made wheelchairs for athletes to ride on, but the production was so busy that my boss asked me to help.

“Communication with athletes” is important when making a wheelchair

As a wheelchair engineer, what I keep in mind is to “think together how athletes want to use it.”

When making a new wheelchair, athletes have a desire to “maintain straight-line stability” and “reduce air resistance.”

While listening carefully to the player’s request, it is important to “make something that the player can understand”.

In addition to that, athletes have disabilities.

I don’t know how much each player feels. You need to get a firm grasp of it.

I will make it by asking how much I can move while talking with the players, such as “Does this hurt?” “I do not know because I do not feel that way”.

Mr. Ozawa makes a “wheelchair that achieves the goals of the athletes”

My job is to build a wheelchair that achieves the goals of the athlete.

The goal depends on the player, such as “to win the world championship” or “to be selected for the national team”.

Once the selection of representatives is complete, the goals will change each time, such as to win the Paralympics next time.

I am working on my work, always keeping in mind what the players are aiming for next.

“Don’t become a craftsman” words from the previous president

Originally I wasn’t good at talking to people, so I joined the company with the desire to become a craftsman.

However, after joining the company, the word from the previous president was “Don’t become a craftsman.”

I chose this job because I wanted to be a craftsman, but at first I wondered what I was saying.

However, while actually continuing the work, this work cannot be done without dialogue between the creator and the user.

I realized that players wouldn’t be convinced just by making something selfish.

Instead of making and imposing something that the craftsman likes, interact with the player and make something that suits the player.

I think the previous president wanted to tell me that.

Mr. Ozawa’s feelings watching over the players during the tournament

The Beijing Paralympics was the first tournament I visited as a wheelchair engineer.

At this tournament, Tomoya Ito, who used the company’s wheelchair, won the gold medal, and I remember being happy to see him from the stand.

Also, it is only in the tournament that you can see overseas athletes actually using wheelchairs, so it makes me happy to see them.

However, during the tournament, I participate as a mechanic, so I have a strong desire not to break the wheelchair.

If a player falls or has trouble and cannot compete in the best condition, I have a great responsibility.

So, I’m not really happy until the competition of all the athletes who use the wheelchairs we made is over.

I want the wheelchair to be safe until I cut the goal tape … With that in mind, I’m staring at the players from the venue.

LEGACY I want you to remain in the world after TOKYO 2020

Considering the players, I would like the system to support the players to continue even after the tournament is over.

Before the Tokyo tournament was decided, the support system was not solid, such as players exploring the tournament on their own.

Now that the reinforcement fee has been paid, players can participate in the tournament with peace of mind, so I hope this system will continue.

Recently, I have been able to focus on training, so I would like to see support for discovering and training athletes.

I want children to become goals in the wake of the TOKYO 2020 Games

Every December, there is a record meeting called “Nissan Cup” where small children and top athletes can participate.

In this tournament, the company offers a racer as a sponsorship item. In the past, Tomoki Suzuki also won a racer.

We are still working on this, but since it is one or two units a year, I hope we can make such efforts on a larger scale.

To that end, I would like to see more children with the dream of “I want to go to the Paralympics!” And more people who support it.

I would like you to see the real Paralympic Games at the TOKYO 2020 venue.

MY LEGACY I want to keep in TOKYO2020

As an engineer, I feel that the manufacturing method has changed drastically since TOKYO2020.

For example, what used to be a wheelchair made from 2D drawings can now be made to look three-dimensional using 3D drawings, and what used to take a long time to make a prototype can now be made quickly with a 3D printer. It was.

Also, as for how to make a wheelchair, it has become possible to make a wheelchair with various combinations, such as making it with a lighter metal than the one using an aluminum pipe.

“Innovation technology” advanced by TOKYO2020.

I want to leave this well in the future. In addition, with this TOKYO 2020, we have started to take on new challenges such as working on manufacturing together with universities and companies.

I also want to cherish this new relationship.

Mr. Ozawa’s future goals

In order to keep LEGACY, I feel that I need to pass on my technology to the next.

Next, I will convey what I have cultivated so far. This is not just technical.

A wheelchair for athletics cannot be made without dialogue between the creator and the user.

Players don’t agree with what they make on their own.

“Don’t be a craftsman” I think I must pass on the “idea for manufacturing” that I learned from the previous president to the next people.

October 14th 2020 text and images are by Tanaka

Translated by Saki Matsubara

-TOKYO2020 MY LEGACY, インタビュー


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