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May 29, 2017

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Japanese skier shines on dark anniversary

TOKYO -- Japanese Paralympic skier Takeshi Suzuki has turned a dark anniversary into a day of glory as he won a gold medal in Sochi, 17 years to the day he lost his legs.

"I feel a bit of destiny," the 25-year-old told Japanese media after winning the men's sit-ski slalom on Thursday for his second medal of the Sochi Paralympics following the downhill bronze.

Suzuki had his legs severed by a truck while getting off a bus on the way home from school in 1997.

"Indeed my life changed on that day. But I achieved my boyhood goal (to win a major title) on the same date," he said.

Born and raised in a skiing resort in northern Japan, Suzuki was quick to adapt to sit-skis and began skiing competitively, encouraged by his parents.

He competed at the world championships for the disabled when he was in the ninth year of school. He made his Paralympic debut at Turin in 2006 and grabbed the giant slalom bronze at the 2010 Vancouver games.

His parents were on the Sochi slopes to see his glory.

"They have brought me up as a normal child even after I was disabled. I want to hang the medal around their necks," Suzuki said.

His hometown of Inawashiro sits 80 kilometers to the west of the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was crippled by the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

Tens of thousands of people who lived near the plant have been evacuated, not knowing when they will ever go home, three years after the disaster.

"Now I can show the gold medal to Fukushima. I wonder if I can bring good news to Tohoku," he said referring to Japan's northeast region that lost 18,000 people in the disaster.

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