Wishing a very Merry Christmas from a Sunny Tasmania, it has been my pleasure to share these sto-ries of life with type1 diabetes in 2018! Recently I was very honoured to be involved with the story of another person living and thriving with the challenges of Type1 Diabetes. Shunta Tanaka is a 19 year old university student from the seaside city of Oita in Japan. Shunta experienced a seemingly life changing shock to his life at 8 years old when he was diagnosed with Type1 diabetes. From my experiences, people with T1 Diabetes in Japan are rarely exposed to stories of success and inspira-tion. Hence, the path to accomplishment with T1D in Japan requires a little more of a pioneering spirit than it does in countries like Australia. Shunta attended a Team Novo Nordisk Roadshow out-reach event in 2017 when he was already a well decorated track cycling sprinter with a recent victo-ry in the ‘keirin’ at the national schoolboy championship. I was lucky enough to meet and ride with Shunta on this occasion and learn a bit about his dreams and aspirations in cycling and life.
WHAT IS THE KEIRIN?
The Keirin is an olympic track cycling discipline that takes place on a circular banked track usually of 250m in length. A keirin event usually has 8 competitors who begin the race in one single line be-hind a motor cycle. This motor cycle then spends 4 laps increasing it’s speed each lap with the riders sitting in it’s slipstream. After these 4 laps and a speed of 50km/h has been reached the riders are left to their own devices to duke it out for victory for the remaining 2 laps. It is a highly tactical event that originated in Japan in the aftermath of World War 2 initially with the purpose of gam-bling for spectators. It has now been an Olympic event since 2000. Riders whom are successful in the keirin have an explosive, brutal amount of leg power that they can turn into a very high speed sprint of over 70km/h. On top of this, winners in this style of event must also have a tactical mind and be able to make crucial decisions in a split second at 60km/h on a skinny tyre bike with no gears or brakes!
Shunta had a dream to become an international competitor in his beloved event- the Keirin. With the help of the Novo Nordisk Japan affiliate I was lucky enough to be a part of the first step of making this dream a reality for Shunta. A race outside of Japan with some world class competition was going to be required and on a wooden track which is the type of track used in world champion-ships and Olympics unlike the concrete tracks that typify many of the regional races in Japan. The Southland Track Championship in Invercargill, New Zealand was selected. Although a small, ob-scure and remote town, Invercargill has a world class track cycling facility that recently hosted the world Junior championship. It is also a part of New Zealand renown for developing some of the countries great cyclists including current Junior world champion Corbin Strong whom Shunta would be racing against.
Being with Shunta as he adapted to his first overseas trip since a short childhood visit to Korea was an experience in itself, seeing his humility and openness to new experiences gave me good confi-dence he was going to handle the unique pressures of high profile competition very well. After some warm up rides, Shunta’s race day arrived and the nerves/ excitement were palpable. He qualified for the final quite easily and was lining up against a New Zealand national champion, a world champion and Team Novo Nordisk development rider Hamish Beadle whom is an Invercargill local. Having 2 riders with T1 diabetes in the final was a phenomenal sight in itself. In the lead up to high stakes events maintaining a composed and confident demeanour is critical to success. Shunta behaved like a seasoned professional athlete in this regard. Watching him blast out from behind that motorbike and take the win at the Southland Championship was an astonishing sight to see. One I feel privi-leged to have witnessed and believe has and will continue to be an inspiration to other people with T1 Diabetes in japan. I know from conversations with the local cycling groups in Invercargill he has already succeeded in impressing and inspiring an entire group of athletes in this remote corner of one of the world’s most remote countries.
Shunta now has his sights set on the next level of competition in track cycling and will continue to pursue his university studies at home to become a physical education teacher. Enabling and sharing stories like his I believe is the most powerful treatment available to people with T1 diabetes and other conditions for that matter. As I have alluded to before knowing that something is possible is quite often all that is needed to shift someone from feeling isolated and incapable to feeling encour-aged and inspired. It was definitely the case for me when I was a young kid dealing with my new life with T1 diabetes.
I wish a very happy festive season to everyone that reads this. It is very encouraging to know that people read this and can draw something from these stories. I certainly love being able to share them and look forward to sharing some more in 2019.
I’m off to Sydney to be with my extended family over Christmas and my wife and I will heart breakingly be leaving our beloved new doggy in a dog hotel;).
Cheers and Merry Christmas!
After receiving a diagnosis of type1 diabetes at age ten, Justin’s dreams and goals in life were threatened. Turning to cycling to help him cope with type1 diabetes quickly proved to not only be beneficial but also the start to a successful pro cycling career. Justin spent five years as a professional in road cycling travelling the world racing his bike. Dealing with the challenges of sport and diabetes across five different continents has given Justin a wealth of stories and knowledge about dealing with challenges on and off the bike.
Having since transitioned from a pro cycling career to completing two university degrees in psychology and education from Macquarie University in 2015 and being awarded with a University Blues Award for excellence in sport and academics. Justin continues to fuel his competitive streak with multi day mountain bike racing for team SubarumarathonMTB.com, having achieved podium finishes at The Crocodile Trophy, The Simpson Desert BikeChallenge, The Pioneer in New Zealand and The Mongolia Bike Challenge.
Since 2011 Justin has complemented his cycling career with sharing a message of hope, empowerment and overcoming adversity to audiences internationally.