Ayaka “Faith” Suzuki is a Force Behind Japan’s Rapidly-Growing Tri Scene
While triathlon has a long history in Japan, it's been growing in the region in recent years.
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Navigating the triathlon scene in Japan can be daunting, especially if you’re not Japanese: Laborious registration processes, various and differing rules to follow during training and races, the language barrier. Fear not, Faith is here to help.
“One of the things I was very conscious of when I started triathlon was that I didn’t always feel included,” said Ayaka Suzuki (who also goes by the name Faith). “I was a 28 year-old female, and most of the club were 40-50 year old men. I didn’t always feel comfortable engaging with their banter or asking them questions.”
During the day, Suzuki serves as communications manager for Samurai Sports, a small star-tup that coordinates with race organizers around Japan to help them run registration, communications, and generally be a point of contact for non-Japanese-speaking athletes. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, they were involved in over 40 events every year, helping hundreds of athletes, be they foreign nationals living in Japan or visitors from abroad hoping to race in the land of the rising sun, get to the start line without a worry. “Being a point of contact in English is so important for the athletes,” she said. “Especially in triathlon, people will have a lot of questions.” It’s also extremely valuable to race organizers, since they can rest assured that all athletes have been properly briefed and have the right safety information.
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But Suzuki’s mission continues after hours. She also serves as one of the leaders of Triathlon in Tokyo, a multisport community for international amateurs and veterans living in Japan, where people can meet and train together, plan for races together, and learn more about the sport. It’s an important community in the triathlon scene, as other teams, while welcoming, are generally all Japanese-speaking, which acts as an additional barrier to entry for foreigners. As a leader she is focusing on making the community more inclusive, especially for beginners and women.”It’s a niche crowd, for sure, but it’s also kind of nice because then I can offer more individualized help.”
On top of all that, Suzuki is an ambassador for Women For Tri. Although the group is a little quiet these days, she hopes to tap into the resources available there to create a series of workshops to help beginners, especially women. For now, through Women For Tri, she has completed the Ironman coaching course and is already coaching her first female client.
“If you come to Japan for triathlon, you will have a friend and a person who will support you. That is what I have been doing for Triathlon in Tokyo, for Samurai Sports, or for Women for Tri. My main goal is to be helpful, especially for people who don’t speak Japanese.”