Miracles Found Along the Path That Mercari Athletes Have Traveled

Hello! This is @Kota and @Iris of the Business Support Team. We are in charge of supporting Mercari Athletes, the team of para-athletes at our company.
In an effort to spread the word about Mercari Athletes to as many people as possible, we’re publishing this article covering the tournaments and championships that Mercari Athletes took part in during the second half of 2023.

An unprecedented string of eight Empress’s Cup victories

Our first Mercari Athlete is Chinami Shimizu, a representative of Cocktail, a wheelchair basketball team based in the Kansai area.
At the Empress’s Cup tournament, held in August of 2023, the team steamrolled their way to their eighth consecutive victory, and Chinami was ranked as one of the top five athletes.
Her team also came in second place at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games held in October of last year. At the tournament, she demonstrated her pivotal role on Cocktail with things like her ability to change the rhythm of the team. Chinami will continue to be a player to watch as she develops her skills in the years to come.

Comment from Chinami

This year, our team is fired up about achieving our ultimate ambition to capture the gold at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. I personally came to play wheelchair basketball as a result of an illness I was diagnosed with 11 years ago that left me with a disability. However, because I have lived with my disability for as long as Mercari has been in existence, I feel a real sense of synchronicity with the company and am very grateful for the wonderful environment it has provided me with as a Mercari Athlete. Para-sports are a golden opportunity for me to get a sense of my unlimited potential. I’m planning to put together a lot of different projects like lectures and hands-on activities, and I hope to share in the fun with all of you when the time comes.

Winner of three bronze medals at the World Deaf Swimming Championships

Our second Mercari Athlete is Yoshikazu Kanaji, who competes in world championships for Deaf swimming.
At last year’s World Deaf Swimming Championships, held in Argentina in August, Yoshikazu took home third place in three events (50 m and 100 m backstroke and mixed medley relay). From his early years, Yoshikazu has devoted himself to competing exclusively in swimming events, and he continues to win in the backstroke, which is his specialty.
Currently, he is training for the Asia Pacific Deaf Games, which are scheduled to take place in March, and is striving in his daily practice. We look forward to seeing him thrive again this year.

Comment from Yoshikazu

In October, the city of Tehran, Iran will host the Asia Pacific Deaf Games. I plan to blow away the tournament’s qualifying time at the March qualification to take the gold medal. Thank you for your support.

Runners-up at the World Deaf Football Championships: A jackpot win for a first-time accomplishment

Koudai Hayashi, our third Mercari Athlete, played in the 2023 World Deaf Football Championships, held in Malaysia from late September to early October of last year. His team made it all the way to the finals where they managed to finish as the tournament’s runners-up.
As the runners-up of a tournament in which 19 teams participated, this was the first time in the history of Deaf soccer that Japan had bested both the top eight and the top four teams in their division to accomplish a stupendous and unprecedented feat. For his part, Koudai took to the pitch in the second half of the semi-final game against Egypt, and although the team was outmatched by their opponents, he contributed in a big way to turning team Japan’s luck around to net an upset victory.
What’s more, even at the European Deaf Champions League tournament (DCL 2023) held in July of 2023, his team managed to come in as the runner-up. He was also included in the “Best XI” in Europe, the first time an Asian footballer has made the list. Based out of Germany up until last year, Koudai has built years of experience playing overseas and taking to the pitch at many championships and is expected to do big things this season too.

Comment from Koudai

The opening matches of last year’s World Deaf Football Championships were tough, but in the knockout stages, we advanced to the final match and cut through our competition on our way to capturing the silver medal at a world championship for the first time in the history of Japanese Deaf soccer. On a personal note, things have been tough since I joined Mercari in the summer of 2018, on account of international tournaments being canceled one after another due to the deteriorated situation of some of the locales where we play and the impact of COVID-19. In my fifth year with the company, I was extremely happy and proud to report to everyone that I had represented Japan and taken home the silver medal at an international competition for the first time as a Mercari Athlete. My mind is foremost focused on having a solid victory at the Asia qualification in October of this year and then taking on the challenge of winning at the Tokyo Deaflympics in November as both the host country and as a member of the reigning Asia champion team. I’m counting on your support.

A first victory at the All Japan Women’s Tournament—named No. 1 in Japan for the first time

Our fourth Mercari Athlete, Nanami Miyasaka, is a Deaf athlete competing in clay pigeon shooting who continues to rack up wins on the global stage.
Nanami captured her first long-anticipated victory at the All Japan Women’s Tournament held in October of last year, becoming number one in Japan.
In her capacity as a representative of Mercari Athletes, she has also put on clay pigeon shooting trial events recently for amateur enthusiasts of the sport in order to spread clay pigeon shooting in Japan. Nanami says she will pour even more effort into promoting her sport going forward.

Comment from Nanami

My goal for this year is to secure my second and consecutive win at the All Japan Women’s Tournament. In addition, by following through with my wish to take on a hearing world as a Deaf athlete, I would like to strive for the creation of new value that says, not that Deaf people can do things in spite of being Deaf, but rather that being Deaf is precisely what makes us capable of certain things.

Second and third place winner at two world tournaments held in 2023

Our last Mercari Athlete, Koji Shigemizu, is a martial artist who trains and competes in a wide spectrum of martial arts, including jiu-jitsu and tae kwon do, and who was the featured speaker at an event for Mercari employees.
At the Asian Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship held in July of last year, he captured the silver medal and also came in third at the World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship held from late August to early September. Even as he lives with a disability in his left arm, Koji is a rare breed of athlete with a strong “Go Bold” mindset of competing in the ring against world-class competitors without disabilities. A good example of this is the K-1 tournament he competed in last year in November, where he undertook the astounding feat of fighting with only one arm and winning against athletes without disabilities.
In addition to his work in the ring, he also launched #z-jujutsu, an internal Slack channel where he periodically uploads short and easy videos that Mercari employees can use for light training. So if you work at the company, be sure to check the channel out.

Comment from Koji

2023 was a Go Bold year that saw me step outside the borders of para-athlete and person living with a disability to compete in Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments against athletes without disabilities and don a single boxing glove to battle in the world-class fighting arena of K-1. In 2024, I want to unleash my potential even more and aim to be a world champion in jiu-jitsu, tae kwon do, and K-1. Thank you in advance for your support.

To end

In this article, we gave you an up-close introduction to the stories of five Mercari Athletes competing in different sports.
The Paris Paralympics are set to take place in August and September of this year. As of the writing of this article, no athletes have been confirmed for entry in this year’s event. However, each aiming for their own berth in Paris, Mercari Athletes are now competing at various championships to create a record of their achievements.
We continue to feel tremendously empowered and inspired by our ever-evolving Mercari Athletes. Mercari will continue striving to plan and promote events in order to improve internal and external awareness of Mercari Athletes and to support them to shine on big stages like the Paralympics.
We hope this opportunity will allow our readers to take an interest in para-athletes. Keep cheering for Mercari Athletes.

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