Fifty-four-year-old Michiyo Nishiie represents Japan proudly as a two-time Paralympian and an Asian Para Games bronze medallist, and the way she helps her sport and do the impossible makes her look like a comic book hero.
Yang, as she is fondly called, played volleyball at the club-level. But an unfortunate incident occurred as she sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to her left knee while playing in 2003.
Through her own strong initiative, she continued with the sport and found her place to compete again through sitting volleyball.
She began playing sitting volleyball in 2009, and in 2010 she was competing at a top-tier competition – the World Championship in Edmond, Oklahama. A year later, she founded sitting volleyball club SOUL.
“I played volleyball for a long time before and I really wanted to continue playing after my accident,” Nishiie said.
Her philosophy – ‘Sitting volleyball is the hope that keeps us alive’ – drives her to inspire others to get into the sport and have the determination to live for the sport.
“Sitting volleyball has made me a stronger person,” Nishiie said.
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Nishiie explained that a smile from a person with disability easily provides a light feeling of inspiration to the disabled youth, and even parents of the disabled youth.
“We smile all the time. This inspires children to keep going and keep getting involved in the sport regardless of the impairments,” the Japan captain said.
In 2012, Japanese manga writer Kaoru Ashida based the comic story ‘To A Place with Sunshine’ on Nishiie’s life, which shows a compelling storyline of rising through adversity. Definitely a perfect reading companion to Haikyuu – a popular manga about volleyball.
“Compared to the Olympic Games, athletes who play at the Paralympic Games are really a small number of people, so most people don’t really acknowledge us,” she said.
But that will change in the coming days, as Nishiie and her teammates will give their best performances on home soil. Japan dropped their first match against Italy in straight sets, but will face Rio 2016 bronze medallists Brazil on August 29 and Canada on September 1.
“I am disappointed with the performance today, but we need to be stronger, and we need to focus on teamwork. I believe we will still improve.”