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Japanese Olympic triathletes to have access to meteorological data in bid to beat heat

Athletes compete in the triathlon at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, on Aug. 20, 2016, in Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Japan Triathlon Union (JTU) began to collect meteorological data from late July in areas around Odaiba Marine Park in the capital's Minato Ward, the venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics triathlon events, to help Japanese athletes cope with the expected heat.

The triathlon course for the Tokyo Games consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40 kilometers of cycling, and a 10-kilometer run for a total of 51.5 kilometers. Studies are being carried out on air temperatures, including heat waves, water temperatures, humidity, wind direction, etc., over the same time period as the race, to consider various countermeasures.

Naoki Moriya, chairman of the JTU's Information Strategy and Medical Science Committee, commented, "Japanese athletes can engage in training in anticipation of the heat by using the data. For example, the content of rehydration solutions could be changed by adding sugar in case of high temperatures."

The JTU is working with Weathernews Inc.'s Sports Weather Team to use meteorological data for sporting events, and the team currently consists of six members. The weather team contributed to Japan's historic Rugby World Cup victory against powerhouse South Africa by offering information on weather patterns.

The weather group also supported Japanese athletes in seven events at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, including sailing, hockey and the triathlon. In the cycling stage of the triathlon, competitors had to circle a loop course along the coast, making countermeasures against the wind a key to victory. Observation equipment was set in two places near a corner of the course, and the team sent real-time information on the direction of the wind and its velocity to staff members of Japan's national team, in order to prevent the speeding athletes from falling.

The greatest advantage of Weathernews is the accurate predictions of its numerous observation sites across Japan. Weathernews has more than 10 times the number of sites as the Automated Meteorological Data Acquisition System of the Japan Meteorological Agency, which could be a huge asset in the upcoming games. The Weathernews team is analyzing data from 2000 to 2016 to make predictions on weather patterns. For example, there is more than an 80 percent chance of a hot night due to temperatures over 25 degrees Celsius on the day of the opening ceremony on June 24, 2020.

"Acclimatizing to the high temperatures may be a big factor for the Olympic Games and getting used to the heat is a top priority," offered Weathernews team leader Kazuo Asada.

The water temperature is expected to be higher for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic triathlon events than for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, and severe heat is expected.

"Analysis of weather conditions should be used as an advantage. It is important to keep low body temperatures throughout the three stages of the triathlon," said JTU's Moriya.

(Japanese original by Ryuichi Arai, Osaka News Department)

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