Chance meeting with a pair of skis spurs Obinata to glory

(PresseBox) (Bonn, ) With just three months to go until the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Sestriere, Italy, Japan's multiple Paralympic medal winner Kuniko Obinata is still thankful for the day she accidentally came across a pair of skis.

Obinata, who claimed Paralympic Downhill gold at her home Games in Nagano in 1998, is set to be one of more than 150 athletes gathering in Italy next January for the biggest event in the winter calendar since the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games.

However, had it not been for a chance discovery of an abandoned pair of skis at a rehabilitation centre she was visiting 21 years ago, then Alpine Skiing may never have benefited from one of its most popular athletes.

As an energetic youngster Obinata had never considered winter sport until her chance discovery resulted in her taking up skiing regularly at University.

Speaking exclusively to The Paralympian, the official magazine of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Obinata said: "I found myself so excited by the idea of this new sport. At the time, I was living in Yokohama city, where you do not have so much snow and I had no chance to experience snow at all.

"But since the chance meeting with the skis I fell in love with the speed of skiing and the beautiful snow."

Her love of the sport grew even stronger during the 1990's when it was announced that Nagano, Japan would host the Winter Paralympic Games in 1998. Lots of self-motivation to complete a punishing training schedule was rewarded with thee medals on home soil including a gold in the Downhill (LW10-11 class).

In Obinata's view, the combination of a loving husband, hard work and learning from previous experiences - which date back to her first Games at Lillehammer in 1994 - have helped turn her into one of Japan's most decorated athletes.

Obinato said: "When I look back at my experience in Lillehammer I was just a student and I had such a long period of time to think about myself and I did not really train so much like I do now."

After wining two bronze medals at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympics, Obinata will be even more determined to win gold in next January's IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships, an event she has hinted might be one of her last.

Now 38, and a veteran of five Winter Paralympic Games, Obinata told The Paralympian she has yet to make up her mind about competing in Sochi 2014, but does have a clear picture of what she wants to do after her retiring from competition.

"It's quite a good question," she said. "I have not decided yet, but I do know I want to take at least a leadership role in the Paralympic Movement in Japan in the years ahead."

The full interview with Kuniko Obinata is printed in the latest edition of The Paralympian. To read more please visit www.paralympic.org/Media _Centre/News/Paralympian

The IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships take place in Sestriere, Italy from 15 to 23 January. For more information on IPC Alpine Skiing, log onto www.ipc-alpineskiing.org

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