Yuta Tsuboi: First Japanese Man To Earn Open Water Triple Crown

Photo Courtesy: Yuta Tsoboi

By Tori Caudill, Swimming World College Intern

“The first open water race I ever participated in was a one-mile swim at Point Lookout on Long Island and I’ve been hooked on open water swimming since,” Yuta Tsuboi said.

Tsuboi has recently become the first Japanese man to receive the honors of the Open Water Triple Crown title presented by the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA). He is one of only 199 men to earn this honor and will be inducted into the WOWSA Hall of Fame later this month.

The Triple Crown of open water swimming can be achieved after finishing the three major swims. These major swims are defined as the 21 miles across the English Channel between England and France, 21 miles across the Catalina Channel in Southern California, U.S.A., and the 28.5 miles around Manhattan Island in New York.

However, adjustments can be made based on the swimmer’s location in the world. In America, the three races are the Catalina Channel, Manhattan Island, and the Tampa Bay Marathon swim. Upon completion of the Triple Crown the finishers names will be added to the Hall of Fame’s archives.

Tsuboi, originally from Tokyo, Japan, came to the United States in 1997 in order to attend graduate school. He has been a member at the Vanderbilt YMCA since 2012.  Since the beginning of this year, Tsuboi has spent many hours training at the Vanderbilt Y at 5 a.m.– when the East Dodge Pool opens.

Along with many three-hour, 10,000-yard workouts, Tsuboi also completed dryland training to supplement his swim training, consisting of mainly weights and stationary biking.

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

“My training partner and a fellow member at the Vanderbilt Y, Kenn Lichtenwalter, keeps me motivated. He’s one of the big factors why I could achieve the Triple Crown,” Tsuboi said. “I’ve met many wonderful people in the pool at the Vanderbilt Y along the way. Some of them are my close friends outside the pool.”

Aside from being a member at the Vanderbilt Y, he is also a member of CIBBOWS (Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers). CIBBOWS is an collective that helps to organize open water swimming events around the city.

“Through CIBBOWS, I’ve met and made friends with many like-minded individuals who are passionate about open water swimming.”

A few of the other members also swim with Tsuboi at the Vanderbilt Y. Tsuboi attributes much of his success in the Triple crown to these peers.

“Those who swim with me in the pool and at the beach are a big part of why I could accomplish the Triple Crown of open water swimming.”

Tsuboi is not slowing down after having accomplished the Triple Crown. If fact, he is planning on competing in a few races next year.

In February, Tsuboi is planning to swim in the U.S. Winter Swimming Championships in Vermont. During this event, they [event coordinators] cut out a 25-meter pool out of a frozen lake near the border of Canada, where the competition takes place. The U.S. Winter Swimming Championship will have four events for swimmers to compete in: the 25-meter breaststroke, 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, and 200-meter freestyle.

Tsuboi is also eyeing a staged swim event in June in the Hudson River comprised of a seven-day, 120-mile cumulative event called 8 Bridges— the longest swim marathon in the world. Each day the competitors swim from one bridge to the next, starting with the Rip Van Winkle and ending with the Verrazano Narrows Bridges.

He is also thinking of signing up for the Boston Light event in August, which is an 8-mile cold-water swim in the Boston Harbor. The Boston Light event has been a local tradition since 1907, making it the oldest open water event in the U.S.

“I can’t stress enough that I couldn’t achieve the Triple Crown without help from many people. My crew members for the English Channel, Kenn and Phyllis, my kayakers on my previous long swims, my brother who came all the way to NY to crew for me for my Manhattan swim, my wife and daughter, and my parents back in Japan. It’s often said that marathon swimming is a team sport and I completely agree with it,” Tsuboi said.
Tsuboi’s induction into the Hall of Fame will mark the representation of 18 countries in the Triple Crown Hall of Fame including the United States, United Kingdom, India, Mexico, Jersey, Australia, Guatemala, Spain, Ireland, Bahamas, Hungary, South Africa, Italy Ireland, Canada, Scotland, Czech Republic, Germany, and now Japan.

On the idea of completing the Triple Crown twice, “out of the 125 Triple Crowners, there are only two people who have done the Triple Crown twice: Antonio Argüelles from Mexico (in 1999 and 2009) and Penny Palfrey from Australia (in 2010 and 2015). It’s an amazing feat, but I can’t picture myself following in their footsteps.”

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