Japan Para-Cycling Federation moving base to Iwaki on May 1

The Japan Para-Cycling Federation, which governs cycling competitions for people with disabilities, is to move its base from Izunokuni, Shizuoka Prefecture, to Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 1 as it seeks to raise the level of athletes' performance and spread the sport. Noting that Iwaki hosts the Iwaki-Taira Keirin velodrome and has stable weather all year round, among other factors, the JPCF judged it "fit for a practice environment." With April 13 marking 500 days to go before the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics open, the federation plans to help boost regional vitality through the sport in cooperation with the city and other parties, including after the Olympics and Paralympics, which the central government has touted as a national event contributing to recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, ensuing tsunami and nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The JPCF will move its office functions to Iwaki from May, having a permanent staff of four, including a manager and a coach. As a starter, a training camp will be held from May 1 to 7, joined by six cyclists designated by the federation as national team candidates. They are scheduled to practice using the Iwaki-Taira Keirin racetrack and roads along the Pacific coast. At present, about 20 athletes are registered on the roster of the JPCF. Para-cycling is an official event at the Tokyo Paralympics. Japan has secured a berth for both men and women. Athletes practicing in Iwaki and elsewhere have their eyes set on the big stage in Tokyo. The JPCF intends to hold cycling competition classes at grade schools and other places in Iwaki to familiarize local residents with the sport and help make it more popular. It will place emphasis on the discovery and nurturing of promising candidate athletes in Fukushima. Iwaki is trying to foster enthusiasm among citizens, seizing the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as an opportunity for local reconstruction and revitalization. The city is also moving to step up sports-based town-building, forging a cycling route dubbed "Iwaki Shichihama-kaido" (seven-beach coastal route) and developing a cycling terminal in the Iwaki Shinmaiko Heights sport and recreation complex. "We hope the competitions will invigorate citizens," said Taishi Kenjo, JPCF executive director concurrently serving as team manager. "We expect to enliven Iwaki while contributing to the promotion of sound health among citizens and town-building with cycling as a main pillar." (Translated by Kyodo News)