Violin

Ex-Paralympian uses prosthetic arm to play violin

“They say this because no one has done it before. So I will do it. (Photo: AFP | Getty Images)

A former elite Japanese athlete captivated thousands with a brief but breathtaking performance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympic Games – and playing the violin is not even her daily job.

Manami Ito, who is also a registered nurse, took the stage at the Paralympic Games to show off her incredible skill at playing the violin with her specially designed prosthetic arm.

The 36-year-old became a Paralympic swimmer after losing her right arm in a motorcycle crash eight years ago.

“There were always people saying to me, ‘No, you can’t do it. It’s impossible, ”she said.

“Every time I was facing that kind of wall, I was like, ‘They say that because nobody has done it before. So I will do it.

But that wasn’t always how Ito felt, especially in the dark days after his accident at the age of 20.


In this photo taken on August 28, 2021, Japanese violinist Manami Ito, also a registered nurse and former Paralympic swimmer, speaks during an interview at her residence in Shizuoka.  - The Japanese musician captivated a nation with her brief but impressive performance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and playing the violin is not even her daily job.  (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) / TO GO WITH PARALYMPICS-2020-2021-JAPAN-MUSIC-DISABLED, INTERVIEW WITH ETIENNE PALMER AND HARUMI OZAWA (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA / AFP via Getty Images)
She rediscovered her childhood love for swimming and enjoyed immense success in the sport (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

“I thought I would confine myself at home for the rest of my life,” she admits.

“I didn’t want my friends or neighbors to see my body, I didn’t want them to know what had happened to me.”

It was the sight of her parents “in real pain” in the face of her condition that led her to rethink her position.

“I thought I couldn’t make them smile if I didn’t smile myself,” she adds.

Ito had been encouraged by her mother to play the violin as a child, and after her accident she decided to try again.


In this photo taken on August 28, 2021, Japanese musician Manami Ito, also a registered nurse and former Paralympic swimmer, puts her prosthetic arm on her before playing the violin during a photoshoot in Shizuoka.  - The Japanese musician captivated a nation with her brief but impressive performance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and playing the violin is not even her daily job.  (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) / TO GO WITH PARALYMPICS-2020-2021-JAPAN-MUSIC-DISABLED, INTERVIEW BY ETIENNE PALMER AND HARUMI OZAWA (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA / AFP via Getty Images)
Manami struggled to come to terms with his injury at first (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

At first she tried to play with the bow on her foot. But it took years before she could receive a special prosthetic arm and master the flowing tones she now produces.

“I want to show the world that just because no one else has done it doesn’t mean that I can’t do it,” she says.

In 2007, she became the first trained nurse in Japan to use a prosthetic arm and accepted a position in the western city of Kobe, choosing to move away from her family home to live independently.

It was there that she rediscovered another childhood passion: swimming.


In this photo taken on August 28, 2021, Japanese violinist Manami Ito (2nd from left), also a registered nurse and former Paralympic swimmer, interacts with her daughters Miu and Mei (left and 2nd right) and her husband Yuki (right) ) at their residence in Shizuoka.  - The Japanese musician captivated a nation with her brief but impressive performance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and playing the violin is not even her daily job.  (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) / TO GO WITH PARALYMPICS-2020-2021-JAPAN-MUSIC-DISABLED, INTERVIEW BY ETIENNE PALMER AND HARUMI OZAWA (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA / AFP via Getty Images)
Manami with her daughters Miu and Mei, and husband Yuki (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

She began training after work for parasport competitions before swimming at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London 2012, reaching the finals three times under her maiden name Nomura.

Ito quit breastfeeding in 2015 after getting married and now focuses primarily on educating her daughters, ages two and five, though she continues to talk about her life.

“When my daughter grows up, there will be a day when her friends tell her that her mother looks strange,” Ito says.

“I want to hear him say that this is his mother and that what is normal can be different for each person and each family.”

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