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Driven to Succeed

April 02, 2013

Special Olympics Nippon (Japan) athlete Eriko Fukuda is fueled with the desire to succeed, overcoming her disability.

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Athlete Eriko Fukuda

Growing up

20 year old Eriko was born with physical incapacity on the right side of her body, affecting her balance and movement. When Eriko was in preschool, she wanted to do things as other children did. Because of her physical condition, she could not keep up with her peers, this drove her to tears of frustration.

During elementary school, she started running long distance, but could only complete half the route. This improved in junior high – with constant practice and the support of her schoolmates, Eriko improved, finishing the entire distance.

At 15 years old, Eriko entered a special education high school to suit her learning needs, and joined her local Special Olympics in Gunma prefecture, participating in bowling and alpine skiing. She makes the best of her limitations to maneuver both sports. Eriko has a weak grip in her right hand and stiffness in her wrist, making it hard to rotate. When she bowls, she has to hold the ball with both hands, in order not to drop the ball. When she skis, her stiff right knee and ankle prevents her from performing some physical moves, like bending and turning.


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Eriko competing at the Special Olympics Nippon Winter Games 2012 in Fukushima.

Constant practice

Eriko’s mother says the best thing about Special Olympics is competition. “Competition is Eriko’s goal. She practices hard for competitions. When she wins, she is glad and happy. When she loses, she is frustrated and promises herself that she will win next time, and works hard towards that goal. Special Olympics brightens Eriko’s life.”

Eriko applies this same work ethic towards her ski training. In skiing, as Eriko turns and puts weight on her right side, she loses her balance – sometimes this causes her to fall. When this happens at competition, she must stand up and start again without any help, within a two minute timeframe. Eriko dedicates a part of her training to this - practicing to stand up by herself repeatedly, with her coach timing her. In addition, she practices putting and taking off her racing suits without any assistance, to do it like her fellow athletes.


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Eriko (1st from right) taking the podium for her Bronze win at the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2013 in Pyeongchang.

Personal Best

Having won Silver at the 2012 Nippon National Winter Games, Eriko headed into the 2013 Pyeongchang Winter Games, hoping for a win. She won a Silver and Bronze for the Alpine Novice Giant Slalom and Alpine Novice Super G respectively.

Her personal triumph was maintaining her balance throughout - not once did she fall - completing the races smoothly. At the medal award ceremony for both wins, Eriko was thrilled when her name was called. Since her return, Eriko has been featured in the news, sharing her Special Olympics story in her prefecture.

For now, she is content with her performance in “the biggest event”, and is looking forward to her next ski practice.


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