Triathlon’s preparations for next year’s Paralympic Games will step up a gear this weekend when the world’s best Para triathletes head to Tokyo for the latest stop on the ITU Para Triathlon World Cup circuit.
Japan’s Keiichi Sato – who competes in the men’s PTS5 – will be among 70 triathletes taking to the Tokyo start line on Saturday, 12 months before the sport makes its second appearance at a Paralympic Games.
Sato – who competed at Rio 2016 and in three Paralympic Winter Games in Nordic skiing – is targeting a place at a fifth Paralympics in Tokyo. The 40-year-old admits training across winter and summer sports can be “crazy”.
“My focus is on the 2020 Paralympic Games, but I’m also focusing on the 2021 Winter Biathlon World Championships,” Sato said.
“Triathlon is a difficult sport and I am still trying to bring the best performances across the three disciplines. Usually I split my training 50:50 between triathlon and winter sports throughout the year, but my training has switched to 60:40 towards triathlon with the Paralympics being next year.”
Sato finished in 11th place when triathlon made its Paralympic debut at Rio 2016, and the dual-sport athlete believes next year’s Games is a great chance to showcase the sport once again.
“It is a great honour and a rare opportunity to be able to participate in the Paralympic Games in your own country,” Sato said.
“I think Tokyo 2020 is a chance to appeal to Japanese society about the competition side of Para sport and a good opportunity to showcase the elite level of sport we compete at, which makes the Paralympic Games so valuable.”
Sato is expecting a “very exciting race” on the Tokyo course with a technically demanding four-lap, 20km bike course following a 750m swim in Tokyo Bay. Athletes will then take on three 1.6km run loops around Odaiba Marine Park to the finish line by the bay.
As well as the technical bike course, Sato says the humidity is likely to play a factor.
“The weather in the summer is very hot and humid, so it is important to prepare well for the heat in order to get the best performance,” Sato said.
Not only is Saturday’s event a chance for the world’s best to compete on the Paralympic course, but also a valuable opportunity to secure qualification points ahead of Tokyo 2020.
The addition of two new medal events for 2020 has increased the competition throughout the sport, with the women’s PTWC likely to be one of the most competitive races in Tokyo. International podium regulars Emily Tapp, Lauren Parker, Jade Hall and Kendall Gretsch will all take to the start line.
The Tokyo World Cup will also give the world’s best across all 12 classifications the chance to fine tune their performances ahead of the World Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, next month (1 September).