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    Yokota hosts Paralympic athletes

    Yokota hosts Paralympic athletes

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards | Team USA Paralympians from the Para swim team as well as the Para track and field team...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards 

    374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

    The 374th Airlift Wing is hosting approximately 70 athletes from August 11 to 21, prior to them competing in the 2020 Summer Paralympic games in Tokyo.

    This time frame provides the athletes a chance to acclimate to the local climate and weather as well as adjust to the time difference.

    “I think this gives us a bit of an advantage,” said Jaleen Roberts, Team USA sprinter and long jumper. “The jetlag and weather can really play a part in how you perform. I’m super grateful to have this opportunity to acclimate before going to the Olympic village.”

    Due to complications with COVID-19 and in the interest of public safety, the Olympic committee decided to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics games.

    “Last year, I woke up to a text from my coach that the postponement was confirmed and it knocked the wind out of me,” said McKenzie Coan, Team USA swimmer. “I thought back to every adversity that I’ve been through in my life and chose to go into it with an open mind. I kept training hard for another year and got stronger.”

    While waiting for the athletes to arrive, Yokota members remained poised to support Team USA when the time came.

    “We were pretty much ready to go, back in 2019 and early 2020,” said Senior Master Sgt. Charles Patterson Jr., 374th Civil Engineer Squadron superintendent. “To finally see all of the hard work of all the people who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into this process -- for (the athletes) to be on base and start their training is a relief. There are a lot of people who are excited this finally happened.”

    Since Yokota has a climate controlled 50-meter pool, the base was originally only tasked to support the swim team. Due to evolving COVID restrictions and added precautions, Yokota members accepted the responsibility of supporting the track team. Athletes had to limit their exposure to the base population, but still showed their appreciation to the base by hosting open viewings of their track and swim practice.

    “I’ll be sad to leave here on Friday,” said Jamal Hill, Team USA swimmer. “Everything here has been done with love. Our countrymen have shown us nothing but love, gratitude and respect. We’ve done our best to return that to them in kind.”

    Training on a military installation was an experience which allowed some athletes to better understand the 21 veterans on the team.

    “Being teammates with individuals who’ve literally laid their lives on the line protecting the forefront of America is absolutely incredible,” said Justin Phongsavanh, Team USA javelin thrower. “It is an excellent opportunity to learn and grow about another aspect of the world that most of us will never see, hear or go through. To also be a part of their growth as a human is excellent. I’m happy to be a part of a team that has veterans.”

    The athletes also hosted a questions and answers session at the base theater. One young participant revealed he was a visually impaired swimmer and asked the athletes what it is like to be an Olympian.

    “It’s such an incredible honor and achievement,” said Nicholas Mayhugh, Team USA track sprinter. “To take a step back and look at it for what it really is, there are no real words for it. You work for something your entire life and finally have that accolade next to your name … is just an incredible feeling. It’s hard to put into words.”

    With the acclamation period nearing its end, the athletes prepare to leave Yokota Air Base for the Tokyo Paralympics starting on Aug. 24.



    Date Taken: 08.18.2021
    Date Posted: 08.19.2021 03:17
    Story ID: 403498

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