“I am the Best!”
Paralympian Shingo Kunieda Speaks to
ANA Employees on the Importance of
Perseverance and a Positive Outlook
(Part 1)

2020 / 06 / 26

What do a gold medalist and an ANA employee have in common? Dedication to their goals and addressing challenges with positive attitudes turned out to be just a few things.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ANA, like many organizations around the world, has changed the way its employees interact with one another – including a larger shift to working from home and more virtual arrangements. While working from home has definitely been effective to keep everyone safe and socially distant, the downside is employees have had much less interaction and noticed more feelings of alienation – particularly with those outside of their immediate teams.

Here’s where our story turns to a gold medalist teaching all of us a few lessons about the value of a positive mindset.

Paralympic Gold Medalist Shingo Kunieda has been part of the ANA family since 2016 and is best known across Japan for his work ethic, perseverance and optimistic outlook. His ability to compete at a high level despite personal setbacks is an excellent example of how sports can bring out the best in all of us. ANA shares the thinking about sports bringing out the best in people and acting as a unifier – one of the reasons why ANA is a proud sponsor of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. ANA hopes that when these games do take place again, they can serve as a portrait for a world united and symbolize a global victory over COVID-19.

Going the extra mile for those around you

Kunieda reached out to ANA earlier this year looking for a way to give back and improve employee spirits while they are coping with a prolonged quarantine. He knew that his experience overcoming challenges and setbacks would be useful at a time when so many are looking for a ray of sunshine.

Through video conferencing tools, this session was the first time he had ever interacted with a large group online. Kunieda was eager to talk to ANA employees and share valuable lessons with them to keep spirits high during quarantine.

"The world is undergoing a crisis, and I’m not able to compete. But I knew it would still be possible to connect with people online and wanted to help out however I could,” said Kunieda. “I wanted to give people a boost and cheer them up and make them smile."

In excitement, 100 ANA employees gathered to hear Kunieda speak about his experiences and answer their questions.

Participants attended from their workplaces and homes. There were several attendees from abroad and some even brought their family members!

Here are some insights he shared with ANA employees:

The secret to staying motivated

Kunieda shared insights on how he stayed motivated and continued to push himself toward his goals through a method called “affirmation training.”

He followed by saying that he likes to encourage himself both mentally and physically.

“When I was ranked 10th in the world, I started to repeat to myself that ‘I will be number one in the world’ instead of saying ‘I want to be number one in the world.’”

Kunieda credited this affirmation training with his positive outlook and optimism. “I look at the mirror when I wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m the best!’”, he said. “I also have a sticker on my racket to remind me that I’m the best! It’s something I tell myself both on and off the court. Three months after that, I won four major tournaments, so I really think that just believing in myself creates a virtuous cycle that keeps me mentally focused.”

“Affirmation training isn’t just for performing at a high level, it’s also a great way to rebound from setbacks. After I achieved the world’s top ranking, there was a time when I fell into a slump. I realized then that instead of training with an opponent in mind, I needed to improve my own shortcomings instead. The best way to stay focused is to discover the things I can change, and to not be satisfied with the status quo. Even though I am back to performing at a high level, I always work to evolve and keep moving forward.”

Staying physically fit during quarantine

“It is important to stay balanced. I know that if I push too hard, I could damage my immune system, so I never put too much pressure on myself beyond what is safe. I try to limit my exercise to about 2/3 of my maximum level so that I am ready to go again the next day. Another vital component of staying fit is my diet, so I actually feel more guilty about skipping a meal than skipping a workout at the gym. I really appreciate my wife who cooks for me every day, she plays a big role in keeping me healthy.”

Many employees burst into applause when Kunieda said, "My wife is in front of me right now and said she heard that for the first time."
Recently I’ve been craving Japanese sweets like Warabi-mochi and Daifuku.

“Having said that, I also have a sweet tooth, so I try to set a schedule for my snacks, and I eat them at the same time every day.”

Stay tuned for our next segment to hear more advice from Shingo Kunieda.

* Athlete Shingo Kunieda’s Profile


Tokyo 2020 Official Airline Partner

*ANA is the official airline partner of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.