Grand Marshal Keiko Sugiura talks Fuji

Japan’s paralympic gold medallist flew the flag in Fuji...

Round five of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship saw racing return to Japan after a pandemic-induced interlude and to get action underway at Fuji International Speedway this month Japan’s oldest-ever gold medallist Keiko Sugiura flew the flag on the iconic start finish straight.

Sugiura was no stranger to Fuji Speedway as the venue was used for elements of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which took place last year and she also has trained at the venue. Winner of the women's time trial and road race C1-3 in the 2020 Olympics, Sugiura has also secured gold in the 2017 and 2018 Para-cycling Road World Championships.

Just last month, the 51-year-old won the C3 road race at the 2022 Para Cycling Road World Championships and she has no intention of relaxing as she is now training for Paris 2024 where she aims to break the record of becoming the oldest gold medallist. After that? Well, there’s the 2026 Asian Games in Nagoya…

For Fuji, the programme was less strenuous. Attending the race as a guest of the circuit and FIA WEC, Sugiura got a taste of the excitement of the build-up to the race before waving the national flag to start the six hours of epic action. 

How did it feel to be Grand Marshal for the 6 Hours of Fuji? 
It was very exciting. Last month I competed myself, so I know what the anticipation for a big event is like as all the competitors were feeling the same as I was. It was an honour for me to be here and I feel lucky to be part of it. It’s wonderful seeing everyone involved in this event and I'm really grateful to everyone, not just the racers, but everyone behind the scenes too.

How does it feel being part of a significant international event in Japan again? 
The Tokyo Olympics was postponed for a year which made everything challenging for competitors so I imagine everyone is very happy to be back here. It must have been tough for competitors to have their programmes interrupted but I know everyone is happy to see this event return.

Are there any parallels between cycle race cycle competition and motor racing?
There are a lot of similarities, with training, focus, teamwork and then how they plan strategies. The cars are faster but the competition is similar in many ways!