TOKYO — Fast Retailing said Thursday that the company, together with its chairman, president and chief executive officer Tadashi Yanai, will award a special bonus of 100 million yen (about $907,000) to one of its global brand ambassadors, wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kunieda. The athlete is a four-time Paralympic gold medalist, with his most recent hardware coming from the Tokyo Games, which officially closed on Sunday.
“Parasports has long struggled to receive the same support as other sports in terms of perceived economic value, recognition, prize money amounts and other aspects,” Fast Retailing said, adding that despite the challenges, Kunieda’s performance at the Tokyo Paralympics blurred the boundaries between sports and parasports, while also raising the profile of parasports within the sports world.
In addition to competing and medaling in five separate Paralympic Games, Kunieda also has 28 grand slam tournament wins as a singles player under his belt. He has won the Australian Open 10 times, the U.S. Open six times and the French Open five times. He has been a Uniqlo brand ambassador for more than a decade, the first athlete ever named to the position.
“When I announced that I was going pro in 2009, it was Uniqlo that reached out to me first and foremost,” Kunieda was quoted as saying in a release. “Since then, through the good times and the bad, they have always been by my side, supporting me in my journey as a wheelchair tennis player. I came to this event determined to win, and after coming out on top, I couldn’t be happier. What’s more, when I first heard my performance was to be acknowledged with this special bonus, I was deeply moved, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Uniqlo said it will also expand the activities it carries out with Kunieda, which it hopes will include wheelchair tennis events and sports clinics, with the goal of encouraging children who aspire to become parasports athletes themselves.
“It is thanks to Mr. Kunieda, our first Uniqlo global brand ambassador, that we could establish meaningful relationships with our other ambassadors,” Yanai said in a statement. “I am truly appreciative of his continuous effort, outstanding record as world number one, bright personality that captivates everyone he meets and positive outlook. Thank you for evoking such deep feelings in me.”