Masayuki Higuchi did not have high expectations of the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon last October, but found he was the only Japanese athlete able to live with the fierce pace that split the leading group.
At one stage, he was on world-record pace and eventually finished in second place behind Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, 3 minutes 44 seconds ahead of fellow Japanese competitor Masazumi Soejima.
That earned him a ticket to represent Japan in the marathon at the Paralympics in London this summer, and also answered a question that has nagged him for much of his career. Can he respond to the sudden spurts of pace that often decide major races?
Higuchi, who will also participate in the 800 meters in London, quit his job at a company in Nagano Prefecture in the fall of 2010 to focus on racing and now has sponsorship from a Tokyo-based firm.
His focus on speed training seems to be showing dividends. At a Paralympic selection meet in June, he finished in second in the 800-meters following a sprint finish.
“I have learned how to speed up and down strategically and gained confidence,” he says.
With many Japanese wheelchair athletes currently in high positions in the world rankings for medium- and long-distance events, just making the Olympics is a major achievement, but Higuchi says he is aiming at a medal in London.
He has one concern. He makes his own racing gloves by melting plastic at high temperatures, but lost his old pair in April. He is now worried whether he can break in his new set?which he sees as an extension of his own body?before the Paralympic Games.
- « Prev
- Next »