ウィルチェアーラグビー アスリート // 小川仁士選手  Vol.2



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

Building Power and Speed to Reach the Top of the World

Hitoshi Ogawa was left a quadriplegic after suffering a cervical spine injury in an accident, but he says he never let his severe physical impairment get him down. Backed by the support of his friends, the young athlete has become a rising defense star in the world of wheelchair rugby.



――障がいを負われたのは、どんな状況だったんですか? 差し支えなければ教えてください。






A motocross race accident

―If you don’t mind telling us, how did you become disabled?
Ogawa: It happened back in November 2012, when I was 18. I was battling for first place in a motocross race, and I lost control because I was going too fast. I was thrown from my bike and flew through the air several meters before slamming into the ground and injuring my cervical spine. As I was being carried away on a stretcher, I noticed that one of my arms was dangling from the side, but I couldn’t pull it back up. I knew then that I was in really bad shape.

―It must have been a big shock to you.
Ogawa: It was, but I never let it get me down. You often hear stories of people who said they wanted to die after becoming severely disabled in some sudden accident, but I never felt that way.

―It sounds like you have a lot of inner strength.
Ogawa: I don’t think so. If anything, it was the support of everyone around me that helped me get through. With so many people visiting me in the hospital—my parents, friends, and motocross buddies—I didn’t have time to get depressed (grins). My girlfriend at the time would also stop every day on her way home from school. We eventually got married, but later she told me that she probably would have broken up with me if it weren’t for the accident. That was because I was a bit of a rebel who was prone to getting in fights, so I’m sure I was unpleasant to be around (laughs). Anyway, having to rely on others for assistance seems to have smoothed off my rough corners a little (smiles). After my accident, I became acquainted with many people who had overcome their disabilities to make various achievements, and they were a big source of inspiration to me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for the support of all those people.




小川:事故後しばらくしてこの競技に出会い、2014年春にウィルチェアーラグビーのチームBLITZ (ブリッツ)に入りました。重い障がいがあってもチームの一人として活躍できるし、パラリンピック種目でもある。世界のトップを目指したいと思いました。





A game abroad provides a lesson in differences in physique

―And so those encounters eventually led you to wheelchair rugby.
Ogawa: Yes, I learned about the sport a while after my accident, and I joined the BLITZ team in the spring of 2014. Wheelchair rugby is a sport where even people with severe physical impairments can be contributing members of the team, and it’s also a Paralympic event. From the beginning I wanted to make it to the top of the world.

―Have there been any particularly memorable games or plays in your career?
Ogawa: Yes, one of my biggest memories was when I played in my first national championships as a member of BLITZ. We were short on manpower, so I was on the court for nearly the entire match. It really wore me out. I was so exhausted that I don’t even remember how the game played out (laughs).

―You don’t recall anything but being exhausted?
Ogawa: I know it sounds crazy, but yes. Still, there have been other memorable experiences, such as my first overseas competition in 2017. I was struck by how different our physiques were from those of the players on the other team—their arms were as big as our thighs! They were also much heavier than us, so when we bumped into them for a block, we practically bounced off them. We were completely overwhelmed. However, I did happily learn that I had enough speed to compete against them, and that helped me to gain confidence.




小川:ぜひ来てください! ウィルチェアーラグビーは、車椅子同士が激しくぶつかる迫力も特徴ですが、チームワークや戦術が大切なんです。コート上の選手は、常に“次”や“次の次”を予測し、先回りして自分のチームに有利な状況を作るために攻撃したり防御したりしています。だから試合も「読み合い」なんですね。Aチームがどんな得点パターンを持っているのか、それを阻止するために、Bチームのディフェンスが、どう動いているのかといった、両チームの選手の意図を感じながら観ていただくと、きっと面白いですよ。



The appeal of a sport where teams read each other’s moves

―We’d like to go to your games to cheer you on. Do you have any tips on how to enjoy watching wheelchair rugby?
Ogawa: We’d love to have you come! One of the big things about wheelchair rugby is the excitement of watching wheelchairs collide at full speed, but teamwork and strategy are also key elements of the game. The players on the court are always trying to anticipate the next move or even the one that comes after it. That means we keep trying to stay a step ahead and go on the offense or the defense in ways that give our team the advantage. In other words, every match is a mind-reading battle, where we try to predict the other team’s intentions. So, I think an interesting way to watch wheelchair rugby is to get into the mind of the players and see how Team A sets up its scoring attack and how Team B operates its defense to prevent the goal.

―So, instead of just following the ball with our eyes, we should try to follow your mental calculations and figure out why you’re making a certain move.
Ogawa: Exactly. All the players on the team are working together based on how we read the situation. I think it’s a good idea to try to get a bird’s-eye view of the whole game.













Ogawa-san’s dream: Play in the next three Paralympics

―What sort of training are you undergoing now?
Ogawa: All sorts. I practice with the team once a week, and use the other days on personal training. My mornings are spent mainly on running laps inside the gym, while afternoons are for building muscle strength by doing things like pushing a tire on its side or climbing slopes. The goal of this training is to build up my speed and power.

―You seem to be doing all sorts of training.
Ogawa: There’s more (grins). For example, I do weight training twice a week, and I also run in tight figure-of-eight laps to improve my wheelchair handling skills, such as quick turns.

―The sounds very intense. Are the wheelchairs specially designed for competition?
Ogawa: Yes. There are small wheels attached to prevent tipping, and the main wheels are angled inward to make them easier to push. However, if the angle is too big, the wheelchair becomes too wide to pass through narrow spaces, and your ability to move fast in a straight line decreases. Because of these differences, each player decides on the optimum angle for their chair. Also, the chair design differs depending on whether it’s used for offense or defense. Offensive chairs are compact so that they can make tight turns, while defensive ones are sturdier and have bigger bumpers to block opposing players. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

―That is exciting. And the sound of wheelchairs colliding is incredible. So, what’s your goal for the road ahead?
Ogawa: I want to build up my speed, power, and passing skills so that I can become a core member of Japan’s national team. I also want to gain some weight to even the odds when playing against foreign athletes. The upcoming Tokyo Paralympic Games are of course my biggest goal for now, but I also want to take part in the next two in Paris and Los Angeles. Low-pointers like me tend to have longer careers on the court, so it’s not far-fetched to think about playing in three Paralympics.

―We hope your dream comes true. All of us at Bayer are rooting for you!
Ogawa: Thanks, and please give me your support!

PROFILE // 小川仁士

2012年11月、18歳で出場したモトクロスのレース中、事故により頸椎を損傷。胸から下と手の指の麻痺という重い後遺症を負った。車椅子での生活となったが、2014年4月にウィルチェアーラグビーに出会い、強豪チーム「BLITZ」に加入。その年の第16回日本選手権でチームは準優勝、2015年に優勝、2016年は同3位。この年はベストプレイヤー賞を受賞した。2017年には全日本の強化選手に指定され国際大会にも出場。期待の若手として活躍を続けている。2018年4月、バイエル薬品株式会社入社。2019年4月より「TOKYO SUNS」に移籍。


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.Transferred to the team "TOKYO SUNS" from April 2019.