Japan’s Ryoichi Uchi has all the luxe necessities of a skateboarder: the baggy jersey, low-cut shorts, and a flat-top baseball cap. But he also skates with something else: a stick.
The 21-year-old lost 95 percent of his sight due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, a chronic genetic disease characterized by black pigmentation and progressive degeneration of the retina. However, this disability did not prevent him from practicing skateboarding or eagerly watching its competitions behind television, after it was included for the first time in its history in the Tokyo Olympics this week.
Uchi is a regular at a skateboarding park in Tokorozawa, north of Tokyo, where many skateboarders, including this young man, confidently perform the tricks he’s good at: putting the board on the floor, pushing his cane forward, and swinging on one side. to another to feel the obstacles.
“Most people can tell what it’s going to be just by seeing,” he told AFP. “But in my case, first I have to do an experiment. I try to touch and I try to get on the board.”
Uchi started practicing skateboarding as a teenager when a friend offered him to try his own board.
He continued, “I tried skateboards for the first time, and then became addicted to it.”
It wasn’t easy for Uchi to play this sport, which involves regular falls and injuries, even for people without visual impairment.
In addition to his favorite sport, Uchi is also training to become an acupuncturist. “People who can see get injured too, but the fact that I can’t see leads to more injuries,” he says.
And he added, “I don’t know if there is any obstacle in front of me because I don’t see it, and I will hit it and get injured.”
To try to keep him safe, especially in new places, Uchi surveys the site thoroughly before he begins.
Explaining this, he says, “First, I check the environment of the place where I will practice skateboarding by walking. If necessary,
The thing is, I touch the ground with my hands and feet. Then I try to memorize the scheme (the place), and visualize it.”
Uchi uses his imagination and intellect to design his tricks, so he adds, “I only think about what I want to do” and “My skateboarding style, whether it’s a trick, a method or a technique, is just my imagination that I translate into the desired movements.”
Despite his preparations, he suffered several injuries ranging from bruises and fractures, but he stresses that “it does not matter how painful it is, how difficult it is.”
“When I achieve the (movement) I’ve been aiming for, it feels great.”
Uchi eagerly follows the inclusion of the skateboard competition for the first time in the Olympic Games, stressing that he was overjoyed when his compatriot Yuto Horigumi won the first gold medal in the history of this sport.
Skateboarding is among the four new sports included in the current Olympics, along with surfing, sport climbing and karate, in an attempt to attract the younger generation to the ancient games.
“I found it really heroic,” Uchi describes skateboarding, and like any athlete who hopes to realize his sporting dreams, by including blind skateboards at the Paralympics.
“It’s a bit like a personal project,” he concludes. “I think it’s like an order from God, to do my best for it to be included as a competition (at the Paralympics).”
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