Mon, December 13, 2010
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Asian Para Games champ set eyes on London Paralympics

2010-12-13 08:42:40 GMT2010-12-13 16:42:40 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

GUANGZHOU, Dec.13 (Xinhua) -- When 3-year-old Takuro Yamada was thrown into the water by his father, he was thrilled and frightened. But now, the newly crowned Asian Para Games swimming champ already can not tell which feels better, in the water or on land.

Yamada made history on Monday as he finished first in the men's S9 400 freestyle final to claim the first-ever gold medal of the new-born Asian Para Games. But the 19-year-old was not quite satisfied, as he failed to break his personal best in the match, which he planed to.

In Yamada's mind, what really matters is not just the results, he wants to surpass himself and prove it to the world.

Yamada was not a so-called born-to-swim talent. He was even afraid of water as a little kid. Every time when he took shower, he would scream and cry. "I was too young by then to remember many things, I can't remember why I hated water, but what I can really remember is that my father just threw me in to the water in order to help me to conquer the fear of water,"said Yamada.

His father succeeded. Yamada not only conquered his inside fear, but also began to enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by water. He started to learn swimming at the age of three and he was quite good at it.

At the age of 13, Yamada had been progressing so fast that he was summoned by the national team to compete for his country. But the amputee could not participate in the Olympic Games, as he does not have part of his left arm. In Athens, Yamada became Japan's youngest Paralympian.

In 2006 Yamada won a bronze medal in the 2006 FESPIC Games (the parallel sport event for disabled Pacific and East Asian athletes) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2008, the promising swimmer participated in six events during the Beijing Paralympics but failed to make a dent.

Now, Yamada has finally won his first gold medal in a major multi-sports international Games. And in the following four days of swimming competitions, he will also fight in 100m butterfly, 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley events.

"I want to win as many golds as possible," said a confident and ambitious Yamada.

However, the Asian Para Games was not his ultimate goal, as Yamada has already set his eyes on the top podium of 2012 London Paralympic Games. "I hope I can win a Paralympic gold in London."

The 19-year-old is now a freshman in the college. He said he would began to learn sports management in his sophomore year and he needed to plan for his future. But for now, swimming still means everything for him.

"I want to swim for another ten years before considering retirement," said Yamada.

Apart from medals and glory, Yamada also finds friendship through swimming. Chinese swimmer Wang Jiachao, who claimed the silver in Monday's race, is just one of his many opponents-and-friends.

The two swimmers, both born in 1991, got to know each other in 2003, when they were both competing in a juniors' tournament. Since then they had a lot of chances to meet each other.

Wang usually competes in S8 events, a class for athletes with graver disability than S9. But sometimes the number of athletes in these two classes are limited, like this time in the Guangzhou Asian Para Games, organizers would combine them together, which gives the two friends chances to compete in the same pool.

"Yamada is a very good athlete. He works hard and always remained calm. I like to train and compete with him and we often exchange souvenirs after the competition. The most important thing is we learn from each other," said Wang in Monday's post-match news conference.

At the end of the conference, the two friends hugged with each other. There was no emotional valediction, because they both know they would meet again, maybe in 2012, maybe in London.

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