Financial strain is one of the biggest obstacles faced by athletes competing in the Paralympic Games, reported Japan’s The Mainichi.
Many Japanese Paralympians turn to crowdfunding to cover the exorbitant costs of the highly specialized equipment needed to perform at their best.
The financial support from sports lovers is essential to athletes in fulfilling their Paralympic goals.
Paralympian shooter Mika Mizuta is one of the athletes who have been successful in crowdfunding. Last spring, she raised approximately 4 million yen ($36,500), which was mainly used to purchase a competition-grade wheelchair.
The 23-year-old Mizuta previously used a wheelchair that was customized at a hospital when she was in junior high school. But in order to compete at the Paralympics level of sport, Mizuta required a high-quality wheelchair and needed financial help from her supporters to afford such a device.
“I was surprised to receive support from this many people,” Mizuta said.
The J.F. Oberlin University in Tokyo ran the crowdfunding — not only did they hit Mizuta’s fundraising target, they almost doubled the goal amount.
After the amazing fundraising result from her supporters, she promised to “deliver results” at the Tokyo Paralympic Games which run from August 24 to September 5.
Keiko Tanaka, a boccia athlete with severe cerebral palsy, raised over 1 million yen, which she used to purchase a ramp that propels the ball toward the target ball, among other items, in her 2019 crowdfunding campaign.
“I want to be perfectly ready when I compete,” the 39-year-old said.
Koyo Iwabuchi, 26, is a medal favorite in men’s para table tennis. He received 560,000 yen in donations from 100 crowdfunding supporters.
Takahiro Matsuzaki, a representative of Athlete Flag Foundation, which operates an athlete-focused fundraising service called Unlim, said this type of fundraising was the most effective action for athletes whose financial issues were made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, lots of athletes are asking for continuous financial assistance to train and compete. We’re entering an age where not only companies but individuals and society at large are supporting athletes,” Matsuzaki said.