Aimi Obara (Tennis)
Caregiver at nursing-care facility for elderly
19 year old Aimi is from Miyagi prefecture, where the quake hit severely on March 11. When the quake happened, Aimi was away with her twin sister. She returned to find her home destroyed, and her family moved into an apartment.
Most of her community have lost family members and homes, and still live in escape facilities without jobs. After discussing with her family and coach, Aimi decided to continue on in the World Games and concentrate fully on her training. The tennis courts she used to practice on have been damaged. Her coaches, who also have been affected by the quake, still devote time to Aimi, training a few times weekly after work.
Aimi and her mother feel blessed by the support, and have faith Aimi will do well in the Games.
Megumi Murayama (Bowling)
Caretaker at preschool
29 year old Megumi has not been affected by the quake, however she remains committed to her training as this is the first time she will participate, after being involved with Special Olympics Nippon for 9 years.
At the last World Games in Shanghai, Megumi was on the reserve bowling team. She is thrilled to make the main squad for Athens in June, and is looking forward to the experience, even though she admits she will miss her family.
Megumi’s training includes practice a few times weekly, with additional walks to build body strength. She works as a caretaker for a preschool taking care of children, and has enormous affection for her charges.
Naoya Tanahashi (Athletics)
19 year old Naoya’s training has been disrupted, first by the winter, and then the earthquake. His house survived the quake, but the restaurant he works for suffered serious damage. To serve his neighborhood, Naoya with his restaurant crew opened within days after the earthquake. Some workers left to help their own families, leaving the restaurant shorthanded as well.
With Naoya working full time, the only training he has is a daily 40 minute bicycle ride to the restaurant.
By the time he resumed training in April at Special Olympics Nippon’s training camp in Tokyo, he found it difficult to adjust, as he had not trained for 6 months. He felt frustrated not to be at his peak level, as he was at the SO Nippon National Games in 2010.
Despite this setback, Naoya remains hopeful and optimistic about the Games: “I don’t want to lose this great opportunity. I will do my best at the World Games. Before it, I will practice as much as I can.”