They come from the land of the rising sun, but they light up their country with the gold medals they won in the R4 and R6 men’s World Rafting Championships. This professional rafting team are living their dream thanks to their sponsor “TEIKEI” which is a big security company. We know them as friendly, disciplined and above all fair players. We talked with Takuya Ikeda, manager of this Japan men’s team, about rafting in Japan, about themselves, New Zealand and more.
Ikeda, tell me how often you have a national competition in Japan? – “We have the Japan Cup race series, which has 5 races a year and we have 2-3 other official races.” – And how many clubs are there? – “We have over 60 teams in the biggest race.” – That’s a serious number of teams! Popularity of the sport brings the best choice of teams to represent their country.
Also very interesting is the history of rafting competitions in Japan, explains Ikeda – “One of the big races is the Japan River Venture which has been going for 36 years.” – Magnificent! Tradition is there, the competition is there, so the end result is certainly not absent.
Of course, they are now the best, but every beginning is difficult, and for them it was not so easy either, explains Ikeda -“I started rafting in 1999; and started racing in 2004. When I started racing we were slower than the women’s team. As we trained, we became little by little stronger.” – So that since 2007 their success has gone only upwards -“We were 3rd placed in South Korean WRC in 2007, a first for any Asian team. And then 2nd place in Bosnia and Herzegovina WRC 2009.” – Obviously it was just a hint of what would follow. – “We became World Champions for the first time in the Netherlands in 2010. And it was the first R4 WRC. We became World Champions in R6 for the first time in Costa Rica in 2011.” – They seem to have found a formula for success.
But there is some novelty in their team for this season too – “We just started a new team this July.” – explain Ikeda, so their new team now consists of: Takuya Ikeda (Manager), Yoshin Furukawa (Captain), Satoshi Koizumi, Shota Suzuki, Masahiro Izumiyama, Yuta Fujikawa.
To better see the competition in Europe, they used the fantastic opportunity to watch the live feeds of the competitions in the Czech Republic, and we wanted to find out what they think about the teams there. In the Czech Republic the Germans won first place which no one had predicted, what do you think about that? – “I was surprised that Germany won. The two Czech teams have good skills, especially in the slalom. I think they are our top “opponents”. After we have scouted next years location in New Zealand at the Pre-worlds we will have one year to get ready. And we will become World Champions again.” – Humble and honest is Ikeda. “Of course, we are aiming for a 1000 points in NZ next year.” That record was set in 1997 by Slovenia and still waits to be equaled.
They have set a record of their own by being R4 and R6 champions at the same time. In 2013 at the WRC R6 in New Zealand they will defend that title and in 2014 at the WRC R4 in Indonesia they will have a chance to defend that one. You will have the chance to try the course a year ahead, do you see an advantage in that? – “I don’t know if it is an advantage for us but will be good for us.”
So we will see them in New Zealand at the Pre-Worlds and see how this new team compares.