reported in Sports Nippon Newspaper, 1/4/08
translated by Brett Larner
Fresh from taking the lead on the Hakone Ekiden’s 9th stage to bring Komazawa University its victory, Koichi Sakai will soon be entering a new phase of his life. On Mar. 2, Sakai will debut in the Biwako Mainichi Marathon in a bid to make the Beijing Olympic marathon team. “Winning Hakone exactly according to our race plan was a good step forward,” Sakai told interviewers after the race.
Sakai has been doing marathon training this season with Komazawa alumnus and former marathon national record holder Atsushi Fujita of Team Fujitsu, which Sakai will join after graduating from Komazawa in the spring. Fujita staggered to a disappointing 8th place finish at Dec.’s Fukuoka International Marathon, failing to qualify for Beijing. Sakai said that he cried when he watched Fujita fall just meters before the finish line in Fukuoka and that it has given him special motivation for his marathon debut. “I want to run to realize Fujita’s dream of making the Olympics. I will run hard, in the lead pack.”
It is not only big name star runners like Waseda’s Kensuke Takezawa and Tokai’s Yuki Sato who want to make the leap from Hakone to Beijing. Other hardworking men who have never been called aces will also have their shot.
b. 3/11/86, Hyogo Prefecture
height: 1 m 73 cm
weight: 59 kg
graduated from Shikama Kogyo High School
2004: entered Komazawa University
2006 Hakone Ekiden: 2nd fastest time, 8th stage
2007 Hakone Ekiden: 4th fastest time, 9th stage
2008 Hakone Ekiden: 2nd fastest time, 9th stage
5000 m: 14:13.40
10000 m: 28:50.96
1/2 mar.: 1:03:20
will join Team Fujitsu in Apr., ‘08
Translator’s note: Komazawa University won the 2008 Hakone Ekiden after its 9th stage runner Koichi Sakai took the lead and opened a wide gap over 2nd place finisher Waseda. Sakai is nicknamed ‘Futomomo,’ literally ‘fat thighs,’ because of his unusually muscular legs and overall build. While he does not look like a distance runner, his strength and stamina, particularly on hilly courses, have been impressive over the past few years. He is not extremely fast but based on what he has done so far it is hard to see him breaking down in the marathon.