Gold Coast 2018: Mami Tani’s successful switch

Former long jumper out to defend triathlon world title

female Para triathlete Mami Tani holds up the finish tape as she crosses the line Mami Tani is out to defend her world title at Gold Coast 2018 © • ITU Media / Delly Carr

Japan’s Mami Tani spent years in the sand of the long jump pit, but this weekend it will be all about the sand of the Gold Coast beach as she looks to defend her PTS4 title at 2018 World Triathlon Grand Final on Saturday (15 September) in Australia.

Tani competed in the long jump at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games, before switching to Para triathlon after giving birth to her first child in 2015.

“I decided to transfer from long jump to triathlon in 2016, because I thought I would be able to continue my athletic life on a long-term basis,” Tani said. “Of course, I was also looking at Tokyo 2020 which will be held in my country.”

“The transition from long jump to triathlon has not been easy,” Tani said. “I’m still struggling, but I think starting a new sport just after giving birth was good timing for me. There are role models as mum-athletes, like Olympic medallist Nicola Spirig, in the triathlon world who have also pushed me a lot.”

It has been a whirlwind two years for the 36-year-old since switching sports in 2016 - Tani’s record since has been eight races and eight wins in international triathlon.

“I never imagined I would have had this much success as it’s only my second year in Para triathlon and I still see myself as a challenger,” she said.

Increasing competition

Last year Tani became the first ever Japanese Para triathlete to be crowned world champion, beating Australia’s double world champion Sally Pilbeam by 32 seconds in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The pair will renew their rivalry on the Gold Coast, where Pilbeam will have the backing of the home crowd. But as the sport of Para triathlon continues to grow, so does the competition.

Great Britain’s newly crowned European champion Hannah Moore will compete at her first World Championships, as will Kelly Elmlinger who impressed en-route to claiming the US national title in June in only her second Para triathlon.

“The number of Para triathletes are also getting bigger in Japan and I’ve been gaining many good experiences in the local games as well. I think both elites and Para triathletes from Japan are leading Asian triathlon,” Tani added.