Typhoon Lionrock wreaked havoc all over Hokkaido and northern Japan late Tuesday night causing widespread flooding, landslides, and power outages.
As a direct result the XTERRA Japan Championship race scheduled for Saturday at Lake Kanayama in Hokkaido was cancelled.
Roads to the race site were closed, debris flooded the lake making the water un-swimmable, trails were blocked with downed trees, and the local hotel lost electricity. The entire area will be in recovery mode through the next several days.
Organizers sent out notices as soon as it was clear the race could not be held, however, many athletes were either en route or decided to still come to Hokkaido.
XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion Ben Allen had just landed in Chitose from Australia when he heard the news.
“I'm so sad I won't get the chance to race XTERRA Japan as I have been wanting to for the past few years, but safety is first and foremost and my heart goes out to all the people here in this region that have been effected by the Typhoon,” said Allen.
“All I know of Japan was seven hours in the airport, but I was in good hands with Mai who did her best to take me on a tour of the Sapporo airport, eat Sushi, check out the Pokémon store for some cool toys for my niece and nephew. I was so impressed by the people and food I tasted even though I didn't even exit the airport. I can only imagine what it's like outside.”
Two other Aussie pros headed to Hokkaido had different fates. Last year’s XTERRA Japan winner Courtney Atkinson missed the notice of cancellation by about 45 minutes and got all the way to Tokyo before turning back around. The lucky ones seem to have been Brodie Gardner, who learned of the cancellation before he left Australia and Mieko Carey, who was able to get off the plane in Tokyo and take advantage of an opportunity to catch up with family and friends.
For others, the trip started anew in a coffee shop in the Chitose Aiport. That’s where former XTERRA Japan Champion Takahiro Ogasawara, several amateur racers and the organizing committee gathered Thursday morning … to talk about what’s next.
“Life is what you make of it, ya know, you have to take the bad with the good,” said Allen. “I’ll be back here, you can guarantee that, and next time I'll have my partner in crime (Jacqui) with me and we’ll go nuts and dive deep into Japan’s culture, fads, and outrageous technology. I can’t wait.”