ウィルチェアーラグビー アスリート // 小川仁士選手  Vol.1



A Young Rising Star Shoots for His Dreams
Hitoshi Ogawa // Wheelchair Rugby Athlete

The Start of a New Challenge

Hitoshi Ogawa—a member of the powerhouse wheelchair rugby team BLITZ and an employee of Bayer since April this year—has been selected for the candidate training program for Japan national team. He is now strengthening his skills in his new training environment as he aims for a chance to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.





――あれ? 優勝ではないのですか?




One of Japan’s Promising Young Athletes

―It looks like you’ve been enjoying some really positive experiences in your athletic career, judging from successes like BLITZ’s second-place finish in the 19th national wheelchair rugby championships last December, and your earning the 2016 Best Player Award. What’s your goal for this year?
Ogawa: I want our team to place in the top three at the national championships and to develop the talents of the new members who joined this year.

―The top three?! Why not No. 1?
Ogawa: Sure, I want us to come in first, of course. BLITZ has consistently ranked high in the national championships, and a good number of our members have served on Japan’s team. If we were to field just our seasoned players, I’m sure that we would have a very good shot at No. 1, but that would rob our young players of a big opportunity to grow. I’ve been with the team for just five years now, and I’m still one of the younger members, but from the beginning I’ve been given all sorts of opportunities to spread my wings. That’s the BLITZ way, making newcomer training an integral part of our efforts to strengthen the whole team.

―That’s interesting. What about your personal goals?
Ogawa: I want to become a member of Team Japan. Following on last year, I’ve been selected again for the training program for national team candidates this year. I’m hoping to move closer to my goal by stepping up my training and developing my skills through opportunities like the national team training camp and overseas competitions.










小川:すみません! 実は入社するまではよく知らなかったんです (笑)。これからはもっと会社のことを知り、先輩や同僚の社員の皆さんと会う機会も持ちたいですね。小川仁士がどんな顔をしたどんな人間なのかも知っていただければと思っています。そのうえで応援していただけたら、とてもうれしい。

Search for a New Training Environment Leads to Bayer

―You joined Bayer last April. What’s the story behind that?
Ogawa: I became disabled in an accident in November 2012. I learned about wheelchair rugby the following year, as I was undergoing physical therapy. I had already enjoyed ball sports for some time, so I thought I’d give it a try. I joined BLITZ in 2014 at the invitation of a member, Shinichi Shimakawa, who still plays for the team.

―So, you joined the team as an amateur?
Ogawa: Yes, at first. Later, I became a corporate athlete with a job at a company where I worked in the office two days a week and spent all other days on training. However, I really wanted to use every day on training instead, as I’m very intense about what I do. So, I began looking around for a company that would let me devote myself full time to my workouts, and that search eventually led me to Bayer.

―And you got the sort of training arrangement you were looking for.
Ogawa: Exactly. Bayer gives me all the time I need to practice, and I’m very thankful for that.

―What impressions of Bayer did you have when you joined?
Ogawa: I’m sorry to say this, but I didn’t know much about Bayer until I joined (grins). However, I’m fully willing at learning about the company, and I’ll look for opportunities to interact with Bayer colleagues. Hopefully, I can have everyone recognize me and know a little something about what kind of person I am. And, I’d very happy if my colleagues would cheer me on.















A Sport Accessible to Even People with Severe Disabilities

―Tell us about wheelchair rugby.
Ogawa: When people hear the words “wheelchair sports,” they tend to think of track events, marathons, basketball, and tennis, but not many know that rugby is another sport that can be played in a wheelchair. One of the big differences is that people with relatively severe disabilities, such as a quadriplegic like me, can play wheelchair rugby.

―How many people are on a team?
Ogawa: Four. Players are divided into different classes depending on the level of their disability. Each class has a rating, ranging from 0.5 points for the most severely impaired to 3.5 for the least disabled. My rating is 1.0, which puts me on the severely impaired side of the spectrum. As a rule, the total rating of the four players on the court at any time cannot exceed 8 points, so you can’t field a team of just highly mobile 3.0 and 3.5 players.

―That’s fascinating. A rule like that probably makes it easier to balance the strengths of the different teams.
Ogawa: Let’s say that you put two 3.0 players on the court. That leaves a total of 2.0 points to be filled, which means you have to use two players who, like me, are rated 1.0.

―So, you could say the capabilities of 0.5 and 1.0 players have a big impact on the team’s overall performance.
Ogawa: That’s right. In a sense, it’s only natural that the job of scoring goes to 3.0 and 3.5 players, who are called “high pointers.” But you also have to think about how to engage the “low pointers” in the battle. They lack the upper arm mobility or torso strength needed to consistently make long, accurate passes, so the degree to which such skills can be enhanced through training can make the difference between a winning team and a losing team.

―It sounds like you have a big role to play.
Ogawa: I actually do. In wheelchair rugby, you can bump your wheelchair into that of an opposing player, even when they aren’t in possession of the ball. This is where low pointers like me have a key part to play, because we can use those attacks to prevent players on the other team from scoring or to help our teammates make goals. To do that, we need to be able to quickly read the offense so that we can figure out their plan of attack and decide who we should focus our defense on.

―So, you really have an important job to do.
Ogawa: Well, the mainly defensive role of low pointers may not be glamorous, but it is an important position that contributes to the team’s overall performance. And that makes it very satisfying for me.





Going for the Gold at Tokyo 2020

―You’re shooting for a spot at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, aren’t you?
Ogawa: Of course! I didn’t get to compete at the last Paralympics in Rio, but Japan’s team placed third after Australia and the US. I hope that Japan will capture the gold at Tokyo 2020, and that I can be one of the players who makes that dream come true. I’ve always had a big frame, so I think I have a good level of power and speed. I want to boost the speed and accuracy of my passes, so I’ll take advantage of the excellent training environment that Bayer has given me and focus on strengthening my ball handling skills. And, I hope that my many colleagues will lend me their encouragement and support!


What's wheelchair rugby?

ウィルチェアーラグビーは、四肢麻痺等の障害のある人のためにカナダで考案された車椅子による球技スポーツ。1チーム4人でバスケットボールと同じ広さのコートで行われる。試合時間は1ピリオド8分で合計4ピリオド。ボールはバレーボールに似た専用球で、このボールを持ってゴールラインを越えれば得点になる。パスはあらゆる方向に投げることができ、ボールを持っていない選手に対してもアタックできるのが特徴。2000年のシドニーパラリンピックから公式種目になり、日本チームは直近のリオ大会でオーストラリア、アメリカに次ぎ銅メダルを獲得した(ルールの詳細は、ウィルチェアーラグビー連盟ホームページ https://jwrf.jp/ 参照)。

Played in wheelchairs, this ball sport was conceived in Canada as a game for people with quadriplegia or similar severe physical impairment. It puts together two teams of four players each on a court of the same size as a basketball court. Each game is divided into four 8-minute periods. A special ball similar to a volleyball is used, and points are scored when a player takes the ball across the goal line. Passes can be thrown in any direction and players can attack those on the other team even when not in possession of the ball.
Wheelchair rugby became an official Paralympics event with the Sydney Games in 2000. Japan’s team won the bronze at the most recent games in Rio, finishing after Australia and the US. (Information on the rules can be found on the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation’s website at http://www.iwrf.com/?page=rules_and_documents&cat=44)

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PROFILE // 小川仁士



Hitoshi Ogawa became paralyzed below the chest and in his fingers at the age of 18 when he suffered a cervical spine injury in an accident during a motocross race in November 2012. Although his severe impairments required him to use a wheelchair, they did not keep him from taking up wheelchair rugby and becoming a member of the powerhouse team BLITZ in April 2014. In that year the team placed second in the 16th national wheelchair rugby championships, and followed up with the crown in 2015 and a third-place finish in 2016, with Ogawa-san receiving that year’s Best Player Award. Last year he was selected for the candidate training program for Japan’s national team and took part in several international competitions. He is continuing to train intensively as one of Japan’s up-and-coming young athletes. He joined Bayer Yakuhin in April of this year.