Shingo Kunieda: The All-Out Effort I Put In

Retirement Press Conference: Four-Time Paralympic Gold Medalist Shingo Kunieda Reflects on Career

The legendary wheelchair tennis player, Shingo Kunieda, retired in January at the peak of his career. At a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, the 38-year-old expressed his satisfaction with all that he has accomplished in his playing career.

Having won three gold medals in men’s singles and one in men’s doubles over the course of five consecutive Paralympics, Kunieda’s retirement marks the end of an era in wheelchair tennis. He also secured a Golden Slam last year after triumphing at all four major tennis tournaments and the Paralympics. Additionally, the Japanese government has nominated Kunieda for the People’s Honor Award, a recognition of his incredible achievements in para-sports.

When asked about his retirement, the para-athlete emphasized his commitment to promoting wheelchair tennis as a legitimate and respected sport within society. Kunieda stated, “My focus has always been on presenting wheelchair tennis as a sport and having it recognized by society. I will continue such efforts going forward.”

The engineer who fine-tuned Kunieda’s competition wheelchair also spoke out about the para-athlete’s remarkable career. Daisuke Yasu, from Chiba-based wheelchair maker OX Engineering Co., reminisced about working with Kunieda and the unforgettable experience of creating a new wheelchair for the Tokyo Paralympics. He expressed admiration for Kunieda’s tenacity and willingness to embrace change, which ultimately led to their success.

In 2016, after failing to win a medal at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, Kunieda suggested changing his wheelchair to a resin seat due to an arm injury. Yasu initially had concerns about the drastic alteration disrupting Kunieda’s performance, but the para-athlete’s determination to take on the challenge impressed him. Kunieda provided invaluable feedback throughout the process, leading to the development of a new, improved wheelchair.

The new wheelchair, crafted over two years and four months, played a pivotal role in Kunieda’s gold medal victory at the Tokyo Games. Reflecting on the collaboration, Yasu recalled Kunieda’s blunt and straightforward communication style, which he believes contributed to the athlete’s success. After the press conference, Kunieda jokingly requested to have another wheelchair made for wheelchair basketball, signaling his eagerness to take on new challenges. Yasu was delighted by the prospect of assisting Kunieda once again, highlighting their strong partnership and shared drive for excellence.


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