Japanese American wheelchair rugby player makes history by being part of the first duo to lead the Tokyo Paralympics

Japanese American wheelchair rugby player makes history by being part of the first duo to lead the Tokyo Paralympics
Thy Nguyen
August 23, 2021
Wheelchair rugby player Chuck Aoki made history alongside paratriathlete Melissa Stockwell as the first duo to lead the Paralympics. 
Making history: Aoki, 30, and Stockwell, 41, were voted to be the flag bearers at the opening ceremony by their teammates, according to NBC Olympics. 
  • Past Paralympic games only had one flag bearer, but the International Paralympic Committee changed it to two in order to “promote gender parity.” They announced in March of 2020 that one male and one female would represent each nation. The committee also required one male and one female athlete to be included in each of the 162 national delegations. 
  • Aoki’s teammate Joe Delagrove expressed his sentiments in a video and said he “couldn’t think of a better person to lead us out in our delegation.” 
  • “Being selected flag bearer is such a stunning honor that I never expected. We have an incredible group of athletes in our delegation and to be selected by my peers is amazing. I also want to thank my family and my teammates for all of their support. I would not be in this position or be the athlete I am without them. When I am bringing in the flag, it is for all of them as well,” said Aoki, according to Sports Travel Magazine. 
  • The opening ceremony will be held on Tuesday Aug. 24 at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. The Paralympic Games will include about 4,400 athletes with physical disabilities competing in 539 medal events, Yahoo! reported. 
 Rugby history: Aoki is a two time Paralympian and a two time medalist. He won a silver in the 2016 Rio Games and a bronze in the 2012 London Games, according to his Team USA profile.
  • Due to a genetic condition called hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathies type II, Aoki is unable to feel anything below the knees and elbows. He has used a wheelchair for most of his life. 
  • He played wheelchair basketball for 11 years and was influenced to play rugby by the 2005 film “Murderball.”  
  • He debuted internationally in 2009 and was named the U.S. Quad Rugby Association’s Athlete of the Year in 2011. 
Featured Image via Team USA  (left) and CCX Media Community News (right) 
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