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[ITU World Paratriathlon Yokohama ] Top-level Paratriathletes Aiming for Rio Gather in Yokohama!

2016 ITU World Paratriathlon Yokohama was held over two days on May 14 and 15 on a special course set up around Yokohama’s Yamashita Park. The Elite category on the 14th doubled as an event to obtain ranking points for participation in the Rio Paralympic Games. Roughly sixty top-level domestic and overseas paratriathletes engaged in intense competitions in nine different sport classes (five for men and four for women) according to their impairment

Seely , Ranked No.1 in the World, Takes Race, with Hata in Second Place

PT2 (severe degree of activity limitation : unilateral limb amputation or functional impairment; ambulant ) is one of the paratriathlon classes for Rio. Yukako Hata (World ranking: 6; Mars Flag ; Inage International Swimming School ) finished with a personal best record of 1:26:56. However, she placed second, approximately three minutes behind Allysa Seely (World ranking: 1). The first words out of Hata’s mouth upon completing the race was, “I’m vexed!”

Hata is focusing on strengthening her biking

Hata converted from swimming to paratriathlon, and as such excels in the swim. She unfolded her race as planned, but Seely caught up with her partway through the run. Hata said, expressing her disappointment, “I have many challenges, including the need to overcome my inadequacy in the run. But even so, I would have liked to win.” However, she succeeded in steadily adding to her ranking points. Hata, who says she wants to aim for a medal in Rio, will further tune-up her condition with a focus on participation in domestic paratriathlons.

Meanwhile, the swim is not the strong suit of Seely, who won the PT2 paratriathlon. In fact, before the race, she was wary of Hata’s swimming capabilities. However, she said after the race with a smile on her face, “I made an error in navigating the course for the swim, so I lost some time. But, I biked well and more than made up for it. After I get back to the U.S., I want to concentrate on aiming for the Gold medal in Rio. The Yokohama paratriathlon was well managed, and there was some fantastic cheering from the spectators lining the course. Today was a really great day for me.”

Daniel Dominates the Competition in the PT4 Class

There is a large number of PT4 sport class (mild degree of activity limitation : unilateral limb amputation or functional impairment; ambulant) paratriathletes around the world, and the Men’s and Women’s PT4 will both be part of the paratriathlon in Rio. In the Men’s PT4, world top-ranked Stefan Daniel (Canada) showed explosive strength, finishing in first place with a record of 58:56. It was his first time to participate in Paratriathlon Yokohama, but he said, “It was a beautiful city with a good course. The water was a bit choppy, but I concentrated on swimming well. There were lots of turns on the bike course, but the run course was flat, which made running easier. I want to win in Rio, too.” Being only 19 years of age, Daniel said he has his eyes on Tokyo 2020 as a goal as well.

Keiichi Sato (Avex Group Holdings ), who was vying for a place on the winners’ podium, finished seventh. He said, “I got off to a late start with the swim. I tried to regain it through the bike and run but didn’t succeed. My body moved pretty well considering the fatigue that I’ve been experiencing (through an intense training camp and successive races), and my time wasn’t that bad.” Although he showed such positivity, he reconfirmed the issues he had to overcome. He said, “I have to improve my swim by another two minutes. I’ve only been doing it (the swim) for a few years, so I’m still not good at some of the basics, like sculling . I shouldn’t be fighting the water. I want to make my movement go with the flow of the water.” Sato said that he will continue entering as many designated races for ranking point acquisition as possible so that he can participate in the Rio Paralympic Games.

Yamada Finishes Third—Frustrating yet Fruitful

The PT5 class paratriathlon (visual impairment) will be held only for women in Rio. In Yokohama, Atsuko Yamada (Alcare) came in third, but she did not do as well as she had hoped in the swim that she had been reinforcing. She fell into tears after crossing the finish line. She said, “I had to aim to win, this being a domestic race with no jet lag for me and with lots of people cheering me on. My capabilities have become better, but my overseas rivals have gotten better, too. I need to train harder.”

Yamada (on the left), aiming for the Rio Paralympics

With that said, there is hope as well. Yamada and her guide , Yu Nishiyama (Gunze), have only be working together for a short time. This was their second time together in a sprint triathlon. Nevertheless, she was able to reconfirm the good chemistry between them. Yamada said, “There’s a really strong feeling of security, like when I’m pedaling behind her on the bike. Nishiyama-san is also mentally strong.” Nishiyama is a triathlete who just graduated from junior college this spring. Her first experience as a guide in a triathlon was last year. She felt moved by being able to serve as Yamada’s “eyes” and found a job in the Kansai region where Yamada is based. She even moved to an apartment close to Yamada’s home. Yamada herself was fired up and said, “I also got the support of a sponsor, and we now have a great environment for training together. I’d like to do a lot of training from now.”。

Meanwhile, in the Men’s PT5—a class not available in Rio—Ryu Nakazawa (Aoyama Triathlon Club ; Takara MC; Interfield) finished in first place with his guide, Yutaro Harada.

Age Group Paratriathlon Held on Second Day—Paratriathletes Participated for Differing Reasons

The Age Group* races were held on the 15th, with 20 triathletes (all, of Japanese nationality) participating in the paratriathlon category.** Each aimed for the finish line with their respective objectives. About half were triathletes who had taken part in the Elite category races of the previous day—they were there to fine-tune their condition. For example, Sato, who was overall champion, said with satisfaction in her voice, “I approached the swim (which didn’t go well the day before) with a real feeling of a race. Conditions were worse than yesterday (with higher waves), so it turned out to be great training for me.” Meanwhile, Yamada entered to gain more experience with Nishiyama as a guide as well as to try out her new wet suit that had been modified in the hope of shortening her time during the first transition. She said, “We can’t really give all on a tandem bike unless it’s at a real race,” seeing the race as a prime opportunity to train.

Also among the general entrants was Shizuka Hangai (Avex), who had lost the recent judo selection trial for Rio. She said she decided to enter her first triathlon to build further physical strength for judo as well as because of her interest in the sport. However, she struggled in the swim, which is her weakness. With the high waves of the day that presented difficulties even for veteran triathletes, she finished her swim just within the time limit. She completed the bike and run acceptably well, but she said wryly, “I thought I was going to die at sea. I never want to do it again!” It at least seemed to have been a good way for her to refresh herself for making a new start toward the Paralympics in four years’ time.

The Yokohama Triathlon has been held since 2009 as part of the ITU World Triathlon series. Paratriathlon was added in 2011. Each year is seeing an increase in the number of both domestic and overseas paratriathletes, and the open category was added in 2014. It was renamed the Age Group paratriathlon race last year. It is becoming established as a May tradition and is helping the spread of the sport.

*The triathlon age group category competes and presents awards according to age groups. The open category (as opposed to the “elite” group) is also sometimes referred to as the “age group.”
**The age group paratriathlon is a race for general paratriathletes. At Yokohama, this race takes place under the old sport classes (TRI1~6) instead of international sport classes (PT1~5).

text by Kyoko Hoshino
photo by AFLO SPORT
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