Winter Paralympic Games in Nagano (March 5 to 14, 1998)

Participation from 32 countries and regions and 1200 athletes and officials making it the largest ever. There are 34 competitions in 5 sports. From Japan, there are 141 athletes and officials.

Gold 12
Silver 16
Bronze 13
In Lillehammer, Japan won a total of 6 medals, and never had the team captured a gold.

Japan closes the Paralympics with another medal
38-year old Tatsuko Aoki clinched the silver in the women's slalom on her chair ski on Mar.14. Aoki was in the Paralympics in Innsbruck. She hurt herself seriously there that her physical handicap became worse.

First ever men's alpine gold
Masahiro Shitaka who skied in the slalom competition on Mar.13 on a chair finished the race first. He's become the first Japanese man ever to win the gold in an alpine skiing event at the Winter Paralympics.

3rd alpine ski women's medal
Alpine skier in the chair ski class events, Kuniko Ohbinata did it again. On Mar.12, she clinched a bronze medal in the giant slalom. She has won 3 medals in alpine ski events in all.

Ice sledge gold rush continues
On Mar.11, the men and the women's 1000 meter race was held at M-Wave. The Emperor and Empress were present. Again Miki Matsue won the gold in the race for the most seriously handicapped. It became her third medal at the Winter Paralympics in Nagano. In a different class, Wakako Tsuchida collected her second gold. Yutaka Takeda was amazing in the men's race, He clocked 2 minutes 25.91 seconds, and broke the world record in his class. As a result of these victories, Japan's gold medal count in the ice sledge event totaled 9. In all, the team has 11 gold medals.
Michiyo's Note: The Empress was in very good spirit that she participated in the "wave" during the interval.

Even more gold for Japan
The Japanese Paralympic athletes are showing topnotch performances in the ice sledge race. Miki Matsue collected another gold in the women's, and Toshiki Watanabe in the men's on Mar. 9. Further more, Wakako Tsuchida broke the world record in the women's 1500 meters for the gold.

Japan's first cross country medal
On the 4th day, Mar.8, Japan's 16-year old Satoru Abiko came in 2nd in the 5 kilo classical race in cross country. He was in the class for the mentally disabled. He became the very first person to win a medal for Japan in a cross country event at the Paralympics.

More GOLDs on the 3rd day
The M-Wave was packed with fans eager to view the ice sledge races on Mar. 7. Results on the ice for Japanese athletes were incredible. In the men's 100 meters, Isamu Takeda clocked a world tie record of 14.83 seconds for the gold. He also clinched first place in the 500 meters. In the women's distance, Miki Matsue was the quickest competitor with the time of 1 minute 28.46 seconds. There were even more medals--silver and bronze won by Japanese this day.

Japan's first ever Paralympic GOLD
Japan has had won silver and bronze medals in the past, but never a gold. On Mar. 6, an unheard of accomplishment was made. In the women's downhill chair ski class, Kuniko Ohbinata took the gold. In the beginning of her run, one side of her body was hitting the slope, but she gained back control and defeated 2 time champion Sara Will of the U.S.A. 25-year old Ohbinata is a TV director of NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Miyuki Kobayashi, who cannot see, captured the women's 7.4 kilo biathlon race. She did so by a whooping 3 minutes. She was guided throughout the race by Yuki Nakamura. Also, in the men's 7.5 kilo biathlon, of the chair ski class, 49-year old Eiji Nozawa won the silver.

Opening Ceremony (Mar. 5)
Looked on the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan, the ceremony began at 7 in the evening at the M-Wave. This was the speed skating rink during the Winter Olympics, and this time, it is used for the ice sledge speed races. The local orchestra played live music while athletes and officials of the 32 countries came in walking, on wheelchairs and with crutches before a soldout crowd of 7200. The 12 meter high Paralympic caldron was lit in the dark. The show was a mysterious production of dancing and opera music.