Maya Nakanishi was a 21-year-old dreaming of a tennis career when a five-ton steel girder fell on her at work severing her right leg below the knee. After six months of hospitalization, a resolute Nakanishi began training with a prosthetic limb and showed remarkable progress right away, qualifying for a berth on the Japanese team at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.
Although she barely missed medalling at the ’08 Paralympics, Nakanishi vowed to transform herself into one of the best prosthetic-wearing sprinters in the world, and a year later was accepted into a program that enabled her to train under gold medal triple jumper Al Joyner at a U.S. Olympic Training Center in California.
Nakanishi is currently training in preparation for the 2012 London Paralympic Games to be held August 29 till Sept. 9, the biggest paralympic event ever with 4200 athletes from 160 countries competing in 20 events. But world-class “amateur athletics” is a misnomer, and para-athletes often pay their own expenses to compete unlike they able-bodied counterparts.
Nakanishi, now 26, found herself scrimping to make her athletic dreams come true. Aside from everyday living expenses, Maya had to pay to use training facilities and for her trainer. Paralympic regulations required that she have at least two prosthetic limbs for the competition. And at about 1.2 million yen ($14,500) a piece, they cost a pretty penny.
During the worst times, Nakanishi found herself living in her car. But Maya lost a limb not her resolve.
Earlier this year, she decided to publish a calendar featuring photographs of her posing semi-nude wearing nothing but her rose-pink prosthesis, raising quite a few eyebrows across prudish Japan. Some people went as far to criticize Maya for “humiliating disabled people” by baring her disability.
“A prosthetic limb is something beautiful, not something you should be embarrassed at being seen with,” said Nakanishi, whose prosthetic legs are made of red fabric and fabric with a rose print.
She also said that publishing a semi-nude calendar is also meant to bring more attention to the financial adversity fellow Paralympic athletes are facing.
“No matter how much disdain and bashing I will receive for the calendar, I want to pave the way for younger athletes to shine,” she said.
A limited 2,000 copies at 1200 yen (US$15) apiece are available. Visit Nakanishi’s website at ameblo.jp/n-maya/ for details.
[Yahoo! Sports ~ Maya Nakanishi] [Spiegel Online ~ Maya Nakanishi: Ein Kalender als Paralympics-Ticket] [The Asahi Shimbun ~ Athlete poses seminude to fund Paralympic dream]