When Miyoko Takamatsu starts her first professional “keirin” cycle race in July, she will be the oldest male or female debutant in the sport’s more than 60-year history in Japan.
Takamatsu, one of the first cohort of female riders for 48 years, will be 50 years old when the racing starts.
She had to overcome opposition from her daughters, aged 22 and 25, to taking up the sport and has been nicknamed “Mom” by cycling-school classmates half her age. But she has no intention of giving her younger rivals an easy ride.
“I want to tell people of my generation that our second lives can be glorious,” says Takamatsu, whose punishing training regime has increased her thigh circumference by more than 2 centimeters to 59 cm in a year. “Through my cycling, I hope to inspire people to take on new challenges.”
Takamatsu’s route to keirin, a track cycling event that is a popular betting sport in Japan, started at the age of 37, when she began participating in triathlons after her child-rearing responsibilities lessened.
Her initial focus was on swimming, which she had taught, but Takamatsu soon got hooked on cycling. While working as a teacher at an elementary school in Tokyo, she participated in road races all over Japan on the weekends. At the Sports Masters Japan competition for athletes over the age of 35, she won the road race event five years in a row between 2006 and 2010.
She heard about the revival of the long-forgotten sport of professional female cycling from a friend who also took part in road races and, when she heard that there was no upper age limit, decided to take the test to enter the cycling school.
Her daughters at first resisted, unsure that they would be able to cope with the extra household chores her departure would create, but she convinced them it was a good chance for them to become independent.
Enrolling in the school forced her to live in a dormitory in the mountains of Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, for almost a year. The rules were strict, with lights out at 10 p.m., no cellphones and no makeup.
But, on top of the more than six hours of mandatory training every day, Takamatsu would wake herself up at 3:30 a.m. each day to train alone.
“When it comes to perseverance and will power, I won’t lose to my younger classmates,” she says.
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