Paralympics prep: Wheelchair tennis stars hit Tokyo


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Tokyo: the capital of Japan and a travel destination for many. Mixing the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples, the bustling city offers something for everyone. And, after a successful bid seven years ago, the famous Japanese city is set to host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020; with tennis one of a number of sports involved in the Games.

So, in preparation for next year, earlier this month, our Performance team accompanied leading British wheelchair tennis players Andy Lapthorne, Gordon Reid, Anthony Cotterill, Dermot Bailey and James Shaw out to Tokyo for a ‘simulation camp’ in the city. Designed to provide the players with an opportunity to test the training venue, food and climate, the camp also enabled the support team to test strategies for optimal performance – covering everything from nutrition and hydration to equipment and clothing.

Upon arrival, the team received a very warm welcome by the Mayor of Kishawa, Yoshi Yoshida (Executive Director of the Tokyo Tennis Club – the team’s training base for the week), Kenji Matsunaru (Matsui Garden Hotel General Manager) and Eiko Heffer (FCO Deputy Head of Global Sports). The BPA also arranged for the team to visit the British Embassy where they had an introduction to the customs and culture of Japan, before visiting the main stadium where the Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies will take place, alongside the Paralympic Village and the Ariake Stadium where the tennis will be played.

Throughout the week, the team took part in daily training sessions at the Tokyo Tennis Club, where they were joined by world No.2 Shingo Kunieda and world No.11 Takashi Sanada. Covering everything from warm-ups to friendly match play, the team had to acclimatise to the Japanese conditions pretty quickly, as a match between Gordon Reid and Shingo Kunieda reached the high 40s on the temperature scale. Over the course of the week, the team were also joined by the top junior wheelchair players at the club, as well as players from the local community.

Who said what? 

Speaking about the simulation camp, LTA Disability Performance Director Matt Hammond said: ‘What a brilliant week in Tokyo. We specifically chose dates close to next year’s holding camp & competition so the team could get used to the conditions at this time of year and it definitely proved worthwhile. We received such a warm welcome and the Tokyo Tennis Club were really accommodating throughout the week. Excitement for the Games has definitely started to build and we can’t wait to head out there next year.”

Wheelchair Tennis Technical Performance Coach Rob Cross added: “The purpose of our trip was to get the players up to speed with the conditions they’ll experience at the Games next year. All of our players adapted well and coped comfortably in the heat and humidity. Their ability to find a rhythm so early on has filled us with confidence moving into 2020 and has given us a clearer idea of the strategies we need to implement to ensure optimal performance. We trained at a later time than usual due to research conducted in collaboration with travel/sleep experts and this definitely benefitted the team. It also gave us an insight into training schedules at future competitions abroad.”

Gordon Reid also commented: “The simulation camp was an important opportunity for us all as a team to experience the conditions and test out the training venues that we will be using next year. This will be a huge help in making sure our preparation at the vital time before the 2020 games goes smoothly. There was a fantastic atmosphere during the week, with hard work on and off the court and great team morale.”

The Paralympic Games will take place in Tokyo, Japan from 25 August – 6 September 2020. With today marking the official ‘Year to Go’ until the Games, preparations are certainly in full swing for Team GB.

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