Triathlon has successfully returned to one of the most affected areas of the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan, with the NTT Triathlon Japan Cup/Miyagi International Triathlon Sendai Bay held in Shichigahama.
The event came back on the triathlon calendar only 15 months after the tragic event. Last year’s edition, which was supposed to also combine the 2011 Sendai Bay ITU Triathlon Asian Cup, was forced to be cancelled due to the venue condition. This year, a total of 28 men and nine women participated in elite sprint contests, joined by 240 enthusiastic age-group triathletes and 21 teams competing in a relay.
IOC Member and ITU President Marisol Casado said:
“Following the devastation witnessed in Japan’s triathlon mecca in 2011, it is incredible that triathlon now presents the first international sporting event in the affected area. After visiting Shichigahama last year, I was shocked and concerned for our triathlon family in Japan, but the resilience and speed of recovery of the Japanese people sets an example to us all.
“It has always been my belief that sport develops values such as inspiration, friends and humanity which are greatly important in times of difficulty. This Triathlon Recovery Festival not only shows the strong support for recovery in the area, but also offers the perfect opportunity for triathletes and locals to become involved and enjoy themselves.”
The men’s race started at 11am under chilly drizzly rain and Hirokatsu Tayama showed his Olympic preparations were on track with a dominating win. When Tayama exited the water, he already enjoyed a 25-second lead. While a group of eight came together and formed a chase pack, Tayama outclassed those competitors and had a healthy 36-second lead at the bike finish. The 30-year-old Tayama won in 57 minutes 42 seconds. Tayama will join the elusive club of three-time consecutive Olympians when he competes in London this August, and said he would take the experience with him.
Hirokatsu Tayama said:
”I was encouraged by people who revived the triathlon event while recovering themselves from the devastating earthquake and tsunami. I would like to thank those who always give us such a stage where athletes can perform and shine. Their efforts and supports are invaluable. I will compete the Olympic Games in London definitely with hope and expectation of those people in Shichigahama.”
In the women’s field, 25-year old Hideko Kikuchi outshone the rest and won with a time of 1:05:10.
Story and images courtesy of Masa Takaya