Chuck Aoki poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 shoot on Nov. 19, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Dear 2021 Chuck,
I’m writing this letter to you on what should have been an incredible day.
Today was supposed to be the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, a spectacular event that brings the world together to celebrate and honor the amazing Paralympians from every corner of the globe. It is the sort of event that gives me nervous excitement and energy just thinking about it, and my heart starts racing, as I recall the marvelous Opening Ceremony from London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Marching into the Paralympic stadium, surrounded by my fellow Team USA athletes and Paralympians from across the world, and feeling the energy pulse through the stadium is the sort of experience one does not soon forget. These moments at the Opening Ceremony are what drive home the idea that as Paralympic athletes, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It is a truly magnificent experience, and the culmination of years of unseen hard work by so many.
But I am not in Tokyo today.
Instead, I am sitting at my desk, writing this to you, to remember what this unprecedented and bizarre year was like.
It began normal enough, with training camps and traveling, airplane flights and basketball games. But by March, everything changed. There was no such thing as “normal” anymore. Our world was in a pandemic, one that we did not understand, and seemed unstoppable at every moment. The idea of going to a gym to workout seemed impossible, much less traveling overseas for the Paralympics. The feeling of hopelessness was pervasive. Everything was spinning out of control.
In the face of this chaos, glimmers of hope began to emerge.
It all began with discovering small, sometimes tiny, things we could all control in our lives. Washing our hands. Wearing a mask. These small actions helped bring a small sense of stability into our lives and helped me to refocus on the goal that had been delayed, but would not be denied.