RYOKOU – the Japanese expression for the word ‘journey’ – is a story about the determination of an Australian athlete, set amongst the backdrop of the Land of the Rising Sun.
The 5-Part series explores the Australian track cyclist Shane Perkins’ journey to re-define his career, whilst taking up the challenge to become a champion rider in the National Keirin Series competition in Japan, 2012/2013.
I find that my discipline with training and racing is really closely aligned with that of the Japanese culture, so although it’s hard training alone most of the time, I still feel motivated by being around it all, plus my family and I have made so many great friends from being over here
Keirin (pronounced kay-rin) is one of the most obscure yet exciting and intriguing disciplines in cycling. Beginning in Japan following World War II as a way to reignite the country’s economy through gambling, a typical race sees 9 riders compete at high speeds over a 2km sprint in colourful uniforms, without brakes, and encourages contact – making for an entertaining feat.
Keirin’s financial contribution to Japanese society is quite large. For example, if you visit a local area with Keirin track, you’ll see many buildings with notice saying ‘this building was built by Keirin finances. The Keirin has contributed over $900Billion Yen ($88M AUD) to the Japanese economy since its inception.
Anna Meares, close friend and training partner says of Shane “he’s not the sort of person to turn up at a race and go ‘I don’t feel like it today’ – he puts in every single effort, like he does at training. Every single effort matters and every single race counts. And the Keirin runs off the betting. The punters are coming and putting their money on Shane Perkins.”
Shane Perkins is the former World Keirin Track Champion. He recently won the Bronze Medal in the Men’s Individual Pursuit race in the 2012 London Olympics, and won Gold in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
A great interview with Shane Perkins about his time racing in Japan can be viewed HERE.
RYOKOU is the first in a series of Australian sports documentary stories made by Projucer’s sports content arm, Chasing the Glory.
If you’ve never seen what a Japanese Keirin race looks like, click here
We meet Shane Perkins and learn about how and why he started track cycling. We hear from his parents, Daryl and Maureen Perkins about Shane as a young restless kid wanting to try everything and how with an Olympic track cyclist for a Dad, the curiosity grew and grew until a day on the track unveiled “a kid with a bit of go”. On his first interstate trip, Shane came back with two Australian records and three Gold Medals and he’d only been riding for 3 months!
Only in Japan would a bike race be invented to reunite and rebuild a war torn country. Only in Japan would they choose the top of a mountain to locate the official national Keirin School. And only in Japan would Shane Perkins find himself the solace he needs to perfect his craft… See how men and women from all over Japan apply to become Keirin riders and the full-on training program they are put through from sun up to sun down each and every day for an entire year. No family contact. No sex. Just you and your steel steed getting to know each other very well.
Following the fall of Shane Perkins. His loss of scholarship from the Australian Institute of Sport, and the events that shaped him to decide to continue riding his bike. It is a window to a past display of persistence and achievement in sport. We spoke with Shane about these events in both Australia and Japan and learnt that in reality, in addition to his own actions, it was much to do with a number of unique circumstances and the actions of others too. This is a story about learning from your mistakes, about holding your head high, and about sticking it to your doubters. Shane’s story is no different to anyone’s in life of trying to excel at what you love and what you’re good at, while trying to make a buck.
In preparation to cycle in the Japanese National Keirin series, Shane Perkins re-locates his family to Japan to live, train and race within the culture. It’s a culture he loves to be part of. This is his 4th visit to Japan. Chapter 4 takes us into the set-up of his house & home and explores how much diet plays a part in his existence as an elite athlete.
The final chapter which follows Shane actually racing within the Keirin, and gives an insight into the preperation, dedication and focus that these races demand. Interesting that the riders have to spend 4 days within the velodrome together without any mobiles or computers.