Mariko Adachi is torn by emotions of happiness and anxiety over leading Japan's bid to dominate the men's and women's triathlon at the Asian Games.
“Many people hold high expectations of me,” the 27-year-old Osaka native said ahead of women's triathlon which could bring Japan their first gold of these Games early Saturday.
“This makes me happy but also stressful at the same time.
Adachi was ninth in this year's world championship series, the highest ranking for Asian women, after finishing fourth in Sydney and Madrid in April and June.
She is teamed with Akane Tsuchihashi, ranked 30th, hoping to improve on Japan's silver and bronze medal finishes through Ai Ueda and Akiko Sekine behind China's Wang Hongni in Doha in 2006 where triathlon made its Asian Games debut. “I'll have a good rest and relax so as to make sure that I'll be in my best condition during the competition,” said Adachi, who switched from swimming to triathlon in her second year at Doshisha University in Kyoto. She won her debut triathlon on the sub-ropical Okinawan island of Ishigaki in the East China Sea.
Adachi was inspired by Juri Ide, her friend at a Tokyo triathlon team, when she finished fifth at the Beijing Olympics. Adachi has repeatedly said the Asian Games gold would carry her through to the 2012 London Olympics.
Her Okinawan experience may bear fruit in Guangzhou. “Guangzhou is much hotter than Japan. But I've trained in hot weather in Okinawa, so there won't be much problem on competition day,” said the muscular Adachi, 162 centimetres and 51kgs.
“There are many ups and downs on the running leg. I'm not sure I will have enough energy,” she said of the triathlon venue on the Pearl River delta. “I will have to maintain my pace through the hills.
Other potential contenders include two young Chinese, Fan Dan and Liu Ting, who will have the backing of home crowds.
Ting finished at the top of the podium in the 2010 Beijing ITU Triathlon Premium Asian Cup in July.
Ryosuke Yamamoto, ranked 48th in the world championship series, and Yuichi Hosoda, 33rd, are eyeing a one—two finish in Sunday's men's event.
“I feel very confident about myself,” said Yamamoto, 31, who finished fourth in Doha. “I think my teammate Yuichi Hosoda is my toughest opponent. We hope we can win the gold and silver medals.
Yamamoto, a motor cycle rider when he was a teenager, cited South Koreans Heo Min-Ho and Kim Ju-Seok who are “very strong in the swim and on the bike.” Another man looking for the podium is defending champion Dmitriy Gaag of Kazakhstan.
The 39-year-old former world champion resumed his career in June after a two-year suspension imposed for a doping violation. — AFP