Honorable Mention TOKYO-2017 Editorial / sports

Keirin School - Back to boot camp

  • Photographer
    Rob Walbers

Keirin, an Olympic Sport since 2000, might not be known around the world, but it's one of the most popular sports in Japan. Competitors circle a track on fixed-gear bicycles (without any brakes) behind a pacer. This pacer on a motorbike gradually brings up the speed to 50km/h until he leaves the track at about 600m before the end. That's when the real race begins as the racers sprint for the finish at a pace of 70km/h. The sport started in Japan in 1948 as a betting sport and even now remains as one of the five sports legal to bet on (next to motorbike racing, horse racing, powerboat racing and football). Being a keirin rider is highly prestigious. Only 10% of applicants to the keirin school are successful. The keirin school, not just any regular school... I visited the school in Shuzenji, about 2,5 hours from Tokyo. The school is run like a bootcamp with students giving up everything for a whole year to reach their goals. A regular day starts at 6:30 with breakfast, followed with a whole day of training containing running, lap training, race training, workout at the gym... and classroom lessons on the rules and tactics of keirin and training theory. After dinner and a bit of relaxing time, lights go out at 10pm. I got access to a few of their daily activities and could witness their persistence, strength, perseverance and power to fulfil their dreams and secure their future.