Japanese Wheelchair Tennis Legend Kunieda to Receive People’s Honor Award

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Wheelchair tennis star Shingo Kunieda

The government officially decided Friday to present wheelchair tennis legend Shingo Kunieda with the People’s Honor Award in recognition of his long career as a leading figure in parasports.

The 39-year-old won four Paralympic golds in men’s wheelchair tennis and achieved a career Golden Slam after notching finals victories at all four Grand Slam tournaments and the Paralympics.

Kunieda will be the first para-athlete and 27th individual to receive this distinction since the award was established in 1977. The ceremony will be held at the Prime Minister’s office on March 17.

“By achieving this unprecedented feat, he has made an extremely remarkable contribution to the expansion and social recognition of parasports, as well as furthering the sport,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Friday. “He has allowed the public at large to dream, as well as give inspiration, hope and courage to society as a whole.”

The government has been asking experts for their opinions regarding giving the award to Kunieda after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed the government to consider it on Feb. 3.

Born in Chiba Prefecture, Kunieda began playing tennis when he was 11 after a spinal cord tumor required him to use a wheelchair at age 9.

He competed in five consecutive Paralympic Games from Athens in 2004 to Tokyo in 2021, winning three golds in singles and one in doubles, and has won 50 singles and doubles titles at all four major tournaments.

Kunieda won the Wimbledon singles title for the first time last year, securing the Golden Slam.

He announced his retirement on Jan. 22 at the top of the world rankings, and at his press conference on Feb. 7, he said, “I’ve had a great tennis life.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Wheelchair tennis star Shingo Kunieda