translated and edited by Brett Larner
On Jan. 22, sports gear maker Mizuno announced that Sendai Ikuei High School distance running prodigy Megumi Kinukawa, 18, will join its team after graduating in the spring. Mizuno's team includes hurdler Shingo Suetsu and hammer thrower Koji Murofushi, but Kinukawa will be its first distance runner. At a press conference in Tokyo, Kinukawa told reporters, "My ambition extends to the world. I want to reach a new level in my running."
"My motto is 'Change the World.'" Kinukawa chose Mizuno in large part because she does not want to spend her career running ekidens but would rather focus her energy on track running. In last summer's Osaka World Championships Kinukawa was 14th in the women's 10000 m, the only high school student on the Japanese team. She was injured late last year but this month has returned to regular training and is likely to have the fastest 10000 m qualifying time among Beijing team members. "In the Beijing Olympics I will be targeting a top 8 finish," Kinukawa predicted.
After the Olympics she will shift her focus to the marathon. The youngest Japanese woman to compete in an Olympic or World Championship marathon was Akemi Masuda, aged 20 years and 7 months, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Kinukawa's birthday is in August, so she will have the chance to take Masuda's title at the 2009 Berlin World Championships. These new steps in her career will be eagerly anticipated.
Translator's note: Kinukawa also ran an outstanding leg on the Chiba International Ekiden in November. Her 10000 m PB is 31:35.27, the national junior record. It is somewhat unusual for high school runners to skip university in order to turn pro, but possibly more common in women's running where ekidens do not receive the attention given to men's races such as the Hakone and New Year Ekidens.