Japan’s Keiichi Sato joins select group to compete in both Summer and Winter Paralympics
Hailing from the Japanese city of Nagoya, Keiichi Sato has been part of ITU paratriathlon events since his first race in Yokohama back in 2014, collecting an impressive series of wins and podium finishes over the years, as well as competing in triathlon’s Paralympic Games debut at Rio 2016. Sato now stands just days away from a third appearance at a Winter Paralympic Games, having qualified for the biathlon and cross-country skiing events at PyeongChang 2018, once more underlining his remarkable Paralympic ‘double life’.
“Third time’s a charm,” said the 38-year-old, candidly. “I have been cross-country skiing for 13 years and have 10 years in biathlon, but still less than three in triathlon, so I have been using my winter experiences to help my development.”
Sato finished in 11th place in Rio, and has three top-ten finishes in the snow to his name; one in the cross-country ski relay at Vancouver 2010 and two in the Sochi biathlon competition four years ago. Now, as he prepares for PyeongChang, he is fully focussed on a podium finish.
“I have changed my training method significantly since the Sochi Paralympics and I am aiming for the top of the world,” Sato continues. “The triathlon is an endurance system. Biathlon and cross-country skiing require a power endurance system. It is relatively easy to transition from biathlon and cross-country to triathlon, but it is harder the other way round because of the very specific muscles used for skiing.”
There are precious few athletes who have successfully straddled the distinct worlds of Summer and Winter Paralympics over the years, but Fernando Aranha is certainly another. Having worked his way to the top of the Brazilian paratriathlon tree and finishing third in his first ITU World Championship Grand Final in Beijing, the Brazilian competed in the cross-country sit-skiing event at Sochi 2014. Aranha then qualified for the Rio 2016 paratriathlon in his home country, becoming the first Brazilian athlete ever to compete in both the Summer and Winter Paralympics.
Another inspirational example of such athletic adaptation is Frenchman Yannick Bourseaux, who competed in the Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympics in biathlon and cross-country skiing, after an accident had taken him prematurely out of the elite Triathlon circuit. Bourseaux never gave up on the sport he loved, finishing 5th at the Rio 2016 Summer Paralympics and once again showing the power of our paratriathletes to conquer mountain and sea alike.