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Benny K in the 'land that time forgot':

The Ben Kersten diary 2007

Ben Kersten is one of the world's finest and fastest track cyclists. The Australian is reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the kilo, Australian champion in the sprint, kilo and keirin, and the Australian male track cyclist of the year. This year he is one of the international riders invited to Japan to attend the International Japanese Keirin school.

Follow Benny K on his journey as he learns the techniques, rules and traditions that make up Japanese keirin racing in this unique diary from 'the land that time forgot'. You can also check out Benny's own website and he is also a strong supporter of the the Illawarra Institute of Sport, from his home town of Wollongong, just south of Sydney in NSW, Australia.

Index to all entries

July 12, 2007

Shikaku and Karaoke

SHIKAKU: you don't want to get one of these.

In part three of my diary I mentioned some Japanese Keirin penalties:

SHIKAKU: you don't want to get one of these. say goodbye to all your money and any further advancements in the competition.

JUUSHU: serious warning and a fine.

SOOCHU: small fine.

SHIKAKU. I can't believe I got one of these.

I actually raced Kumamoto Keirin a week before my last diary entry "Welcome to Alcatraz". However thanks to me receiving a "SHIKAKU", I felt it might be more beneficially for someone to read about the inner workings of the Keirin Tournament rather than a night in a Karaoke Bar.

In my last entry I touched on the similarities between a Keirin Tournament and prison. Well, I wasn't actually complaining. I much preferred being locked in the Keirin than locked out.

In Keirin School and at the place where my journal begins, we crammed a normal Keirin Riders year-long education into a handful of lessons. In one of those lessons I specifically noted the following rule. "When a rider is forced from the sprinters line to the inside of the track with physical force, he is allowed to continue underneath the sprinters line to regain his position."

On day two in Kumamoto I was waiting on the front of the bunch for a line of two riders that were coming, so that they could pass over and in front of me and I could get a wind break. As they got to me they instead broke rapidly and pushed me down inside the track. I was heading backwards to attempt a run around the outside when I remember our drivers ed. course at Keirin School. A bright idea I thought so off I went full steam 450m before the finish line. I opened up quite a margin and won easily while slowing before the line. I felt like I was finally getting into my groove.

In Keirin they have a little tradition. Every rider that wins no matter what race they are in, are to buy 9 energy drinks (Pocari Sweat) and offer them to the riders he defeated as a gesture. Since the winner is still rolling on the inside of the track and unable to buy the Pocari Sweat, his friends or handlers buy the drinks for him before he returns.

As I rode into the pits I saw my handlers had forgotten to buy my Pocari Sweat. Filled with adrenalin I raced off to get some and immediately handed them out. Totally unable to understand body language or compute awkward stares with such a high heart rate.

It seems everyone was expecting a decision from the judges about my submarine dive.

And right they were - SHIKAKU.

"Can I please have that drink back, sorry"

I met with the judges afterwards and they were extremely apologetic and totally understood my manoeuvre. It is a legal move but I waited a split second to long to decide to take the lead back and breaking that rule is punishable by a Shikaku.

Before hand I was under the understanding that I couldn't race the next day and didn't receive any money for this punishment. It get's worse.

(Keirin men) "Pack your things"

(Me) "eh?"

(Keirin men) "Pack your things please"

(Me) "eh??"

(Keirin men) "You're not allowed in the Velodrome or the Dormitory after a Shikaku"

(Me) "Eh???"

(Keirin men) "Taxi is waiting"

(Me) "EH!!??"

(Keirin men) "Sorry"

(Me) "Where do I sleep?"

(Keirin men) "We booked you hotel, you have to pay for it" "Sorry".

(Me) "AH Shikaku"

(Keirin men) "Sorry"

Sitting alone and destitute in my hotel room didn't sit to well. I decided to give myself a Japanese lesson. I hailed a taxi (who didn't speak English) and got him to take me to the busiest street. From there I asked people for a popular bar (in Japanese). The bar was empty (Japanese maybe not so good). I quickly made friends with the bar staff and we all hung out for half an hour or so before I was making them Australian Cocktails from behind the bar (Japanese getting better). Two of the guys decided I was better company so they left work and we all went to a Karaoke Bar that you could only navigate toward if you were a local.

Not a nice result for my third race, fortunately I now have a few fond memories of Japan and I can sing a little better.