Wada Natsuki Preparing For A Terrific Paralympic Games Debut At Paris 2024 

Wada Natsuki, hailing from the vibrant city of Osaka, Japan, is not just a name but an inspiration for many. Living with her mother and elder brother, Natsuki’s journey into the world of table tennis is both heart-warming and empowering. Her mother stands as her pillar of support, cheering her on, comforting her during low moments, and celebrating her victories. 

 “She always cheers me on, in the house, during practice. When I’m feeling down, she comforts me, and when I win a game, she celebrates with me,” shares Natsuki. 

Despite her current success, Natsuki’s journey has not been without its challenges. Her intellectual impairment made her a target for mockery and discrimination. She recalls her difficult school years,  

The teacher was very strict and I was scared. I was bullied and couldn’t go to school. When people found out I have intellectual impairment, they made fun of me, imitated my behaviour, and called me weird,” Natsuki told Virtus. 

Natsuki has come up with her own way of dealing with the difficulties she faces due to intellectual impairment. 

“I like to keep everything in order so that I know when I am doing what, but if anything in that order changes then I get upset and mad and I cannot do the things I was supposed to do.” 

Natsuki began playing table tennis only four years ago, initially as a part of her weight loss journey.

I started sports when I started dieting to lose weight and then I started practising sports. I started with swimming first and then there was a table tennis place nearby so I started to play table tennis.”  

Wada Natsuki at Hangzhou 2022. Photo credit: Takamitsu Mifune

Different athletes with intellectual impairment face different hurdles. For Watsuki, the impairment made it difficult to deal with ‘unpredictability‘. She came up with her way of dealing with things such as keeping things very organised to reduce the element of surprise. However, table tennis presented a unique challenge for Natsuki as it is always unpredictable.

I am getting used to the unpredictability during the match. However, when the court changes or the timetable changes before a match, there are times when I get upset, I get nervous and sometimes I cannot perform the way I was planning to and can’t keep calm.” 

Despite these challenges, Natsuki’s determination never wavered. 

Natsuki received her international eligibility with Virtus in September 2022 which opened doors for her at the international para-sports competitions. Natsuki teamed up with Yamamoto Shunta and won gold at the 2022 Virtus Oceania Asia Games and later won gold in Class 11 singles at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games.

Ranking fourth in the current ITTF world ranking, Natsuki rose quickly to fame which took her by surprise. Qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympics was a dream come true for Natsuki. 

I expected to play for Japan but I never expected to go to the Paralympics and to win at the World Championship. At first, I could not feel or understand that I am actually going to Paris 2024, but as time is passing by, I am getting very excited to go to the Paris Paralympics. I am very weak physically so I am doing a lot of muscle training,” she stated. 

As she gears up for this prestigious event, her training regimen is intense, involving 2-3 hours of practice daily for 5-6 days a week. 

Natsuki remains humble about her achievements, never keeping count of her international medals. Each medal holds a special place in her heart. Her ultimate goal is clear and ambitious:  

First of all, I want to win a gold medal at the Paris Paralympic Games, then I want to be No.1 in the world. And maybe after that, I want to set a winning streak record.” 

For young athletes with intellectual impairments, Natsuki offers a message of resilience and hope.  

I think everyone can grow by simply changing the way you do things and the way you think. So don’t give up on anything.” 

Natsuki’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the unwavering support of loved ones. As she prepares for Paris 2024, her journey continues to inspire many, proving that with determination and support, no dream is too big. 

Join Virtus’ #MakingInvisibleVISIBLE campaign in making Wada Natsuki’s journey Visible. 


 Intellectual impairment is an umbrella term to describe a vast and neuro-diverse group of people with varying types of cognitive impairments including intellectual disability, Down syndrome and autism. Having an intellectual impairment impacts how an athlete understands the rules of the sport, interacts with other players, and adjusts to different environments. They might find it difficult to manage reaction times, remember specific race or game strategies, retain focus for long period of time, or maintaining impulse control.