Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan -- Approximately 200 station residents, Japanese civilians and their families participated in the Special Olympics Nippon Hiroshima at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Oct. 2, 2016.
This program provides year-round training for upcoming competitions in a variety of Olympic-style sports, and it is catered to children and adults with mental and learning disabilities.
Activities held at the Special Olympics Nippon Hiroshima included basketball, futsal, tennis, bowling and a duathlon. During the competition, athletes, volunteers and guests expressed enthusiasm as they interacted and experienced new cultures.
“Today we are concentrating on what we call ‘unified sports’ where athletes and people from the community enjoy sports together,” said Frank Thornton, Special Olympics sports trainer and event director.
Yoshiko Kawamura, a Special Olympics athlete, said she chose basketball as her sport and was ecstatic to score a basket.
The Special Olympics instills confidence, inspires a sense of competition and improves health through the transformative power of sports. Hosting the event here helps service members and their families build stronger relationships with Japanese civilians by breaking language barriers and promoting positive interaction in a foreign country.
“This is a really important event,” said Mark Lange, event volunteer and a teacher at Matthew C. Perry High School. “I’m out here with my tennis players because making friends with the Japanese is important, and I think they should give something back to the community.”
As the 10th Special Olympics Hiroshima held at the air station, event coordinators hope to publicize the event and encourage more athletes to compete.
“I started this event 10 years ago,” said Thornton. “I came on base with about 40 athletes where we bowled and had lunch. Now 10 years later, the 40 people have increased to over 200. Hopefully this will continue to get bigger. I would like to thank everyone, especially the volunteers that found time to come out and make a difference. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.”