By Nicola Hargreaves on 24/09/11 at 10:28 pm
Japan claimed the first ever Asian Championship mixed team relay title at the 2011 Yilan ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships. The exciting race kept everyone guessing to the very end in the event that has proved equally popular among athletes and spectators.
Japan team I had an impressive line-up with elite athletes Tomoko Sakimoto, Hiroki Sugimoto, Ai Ueda and Yuichi Hosoda, widely considered the favourite from the start. But a stellar performance from Korea team I made up of Jang Jun Jung, Kim Ji Hwan, Kim Hee Ju and Heo Min Ho kept Japan on their toes and produced a thrilling spectacle for the crowds in Yilan.
Mixed Team Relay Review
Excitement filled the air as the 15 teams from six countries mingled at the starting area. The women set the pace diving into Mehua Lake for the short 250m one-lap swim.
First to exit was Sakimoto, Hong Dan Bi from Korea team II and Jang. Chinese Taipei was next out with Chang Luo Yi followed by a flurry of the remaining Japanese and Korean teams.
Sakimoto opened up a 30-second lead over Hong entering T2 and by the time Japan team I reached the relay zone to tag Sugimoto for the second leg, a minute separated the two. A group of five men all tagged within seconds of each other and were then faced with the mission of catching Sugimoto on the bike.
As Sugimoto rounded the tight final bend to enter transition, his wheels slid, sending him crashing to the ground. The fall cost Japan valuable time and allowed Korea team’s I & II and Japan team II to catch up.
Sugimoto managed to pull back a small lead on the run allowing Ueda ten seconds of leeway on the third leg of the relay.
Close behind Kim Ji Hwan and Kim Ju Seok, had joined forces on the run in hot pursuit of Japan. The two Koreans positioned teammates Kim Hee Ju and Sung Kyung ready for the third leg. By the end of the swim, Kim and Sung had caught Ueda, the three leaving T1 together. The race for gold was truly on.
Ueda and Kim where neck and neck out of T2 with Sung unable to keep up with the blistering pace, dropped back over a minute. Ueda sprung out her trademark run around the lake and the short 2.2km was enough to give 2-time Asian champion Hosoda a 20-second head-start as a big smile met Ueda in the relay zone.
Elite men’s silver medallist from the previous day in Yilan, Heo Min Ho took the final leg for Korea team I, tagging Kim before sprinting down the pontoon and launching himself into Mehua Lake.
Hosoda finally secured his team the win by motoring away from Heo on the bike course. Hosoda sustained the 45-second gap he earned on the bike to take the gold, Heo bringing home silver for Korea team I.
“The team relay is really exciting, very good entertainment. It’s very fast, we would never use this speed at Olympic distance,” said Hosoda.
A similar Korea-Japan team tussle was brewing over two minutes behind the leaders for third position. Japan team III and Korea team II started their last leg together, as Takamori Sugihara and Sung Ho Tae continued to breathe down each other’s neck all the way into the run.
Sugihara outsprinted Sung to take third position for Japan team III, made up of four junior athletes.
“It’s really fun. It’s the first time I have taken part in a team relay,” said Kim Ji Hwan. “I could see that Japan was about one minute in front when I began, so I worked hard to catch up. I and Korea team II rode together on the bike and managed to catch up going into the run. I kept up a very high pace on the run lap and the last 400m pushed really hard. I couldn’t quite catch the Japanese team, but I was really near when I reached the relay zone.
In line with the ruling that a nation may claim only one medal, Hong Kong was awarded bronze on the podium after Edith Li, Ho King Fun, Choi Yan Yin and Perry Wong were the third federation to cross the finish line.
The mixed team relay consists of a team of two women and two men who each complete a full triathlon in the order of woman-man-woman-man. At the 2011 Yilan ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships athletes completed a 250m one lap-swim, 6.6km one-lap bike and 2.2km one-lap run. This team event was the first at the Asian Championships since team triathlon was accepted into the Asian Games programme starting with Incheon 2014.
Find more details about this event - 2011 Yilan ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships