Professional women’s keirin bicycle racing is off to a flying start after being revived for the first time in 48 years in early July. Ticket sales have exceeded expectations, and fans are turning out in big numbers.
“This is the first major hit in awhile for the keirin world,” says Tomokazu Shirato, an official of the Japan Keirin Association, the organization that runs keirin races in Japan. The JKA had set a sales target of 100 million yen for the six races held in the first three days. Sales well exceeded that at 248 million yen.
“Girl’s Keirin” adheres to international rules. The carbon-fiber bicycles introduced for the female cyclists are high-tech and glamorous compared with the Japan Bicycle Association (NJS)-approved steel frames used in Japanese men’s keirin. In addition, the female racers can be identified by the different colors of their bikes.
The rules and specifications on bicycles adhere to standards similar to those used at the Olympic Games rather than strictly following NJS guidelines.
These reforms were made to help female cyclists succeed on the global stage.
Women’s keirin will make its official Olympic debut this summer in London. Japan was not able to send a female cyclist to represent the nation this time, but the JKA dreams of sending one of the Girl’s Keirin cyclists to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.