translated and edited by Brett Larner
Osaka World Track and Field Championships competitor and Great Hope for the future of Japanese women`s long distance running Megumi Kinukawa (18, Team Mizuno) announced on June 5 that she has contracted an unknown virus which will keep her out of the Olympic Trials at the National Track and Field Championships, to be held June 26-29 in Kawasaki. Medical staff have indicated that the chance is high Kinukawa caught the virus while training in Kunming, China. Whether it came from the pollution, contaminated food or another source, the "invisible enemy" has deprived the young star of her Olympic chance and shaken the Japanese long distance world.
Kinukawa`s situation has made a deep impact upon her. "I wouldn`t want anyone else to go through what I`m experiencing," she said of the serious viral infection which has possessed her like a devil just before the Olympics. "I only want other athletes to know that there is a sickness like this out there."
Her problems began last November when Kinukawa began to have persistent flu-like symptoms and aches and pains all over her body. In December she suffered a stress fracture in her right femur which kept her out of the National High School Ekiden in Kyoto. In February she began to feel similar pain in her left leg, then strong pain in her left knee which made it difficult for her to even walk.
Kinukawa was forced to cancel her professional debut at April`s Oda Memorial meet in Hiroshima, followed by a string of further cancellations. Her coach at Sendai Ikuei High School and mentor since graduating, Takao Watanabe felt, "All these injuries could not be coming from her training," and believed that she would be able to recover. Extensive medical testing revealed no skeletal problems. A subsequent battery of blood testing discovered the presence of the presence of the unnamed virus. Previous testing at the same clinic had failed to find any problems with Kinukawa`s blood, but the clinic`s head Dr. Matsumoto indicated that new tests revealed the virus had seriously affected red blood cell production and was likewise damaging to white blood cells, leading to the array of bone and muscle problems Kinukawa has experienced.
Dr. Matsumoto stated that the virus was unlikely to have originated in Japan and that Kinukawa had become infected in another country. Her only overseas experience came when Kinukawa went to Kunming in March last year for high altitude training. "The probability that she was infected in Kunming is high," commented Dr. Matsumoto. Kunming is the same location where Beijing Olympic women`s marathon team member Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and others regularly attend training camps. Noguchi contracted a serious rash which kept her from several races after training in Kunming in March. Noguchi`s fellow Olympic marathon team member Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) is scheduled to head to Kunming for training on June 12. Tosa`s coach Hideo Suzuki said she had no plans to alter her training, adding, "I`ve never heard any talk of such problems [in Kunming]." Nevertheless, the Japanese distance running community remains shaken.
Kinukawa remains highly optmistic about making a full comeback despite only being to jog for 30 minutes at a time in her present condition. Looking at the fast-approaching Olympic Trials, Kinukawa says, "I won`t give up until it`s over." Coach Watanabe is, however, less positive. "She is not ready. Our top priority is to get her one day closer to being able to run normally again."
Kinukawa made the 10000 m Olympic A-standard of 31:45.00 last summer, but to be selected for the Olympic team she must perform in the National Track and Field Championships. Struck down by an "invisible enemy" at only age 18, the deadline for Kinukawa to face the track world is drawing nearer.
18, Team Mizuno. Born Aug. 7, 1989 in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. 153 cm, 38 kg. Attended Sendai Ikuei High School. 3rd place in National H.S. 5000 m as a first-year. Passed 12 runners on the 2nd stage of the National H.S. Ekiden. Set the women`s 10000 m Japanese junior record of 31:35.27 at last year`s Hyogo Relay Carnival. 14th in last summer`s World Championships 10000 m.
China`s center for high-altitude training. Population 5,000,000. Situated at 1900 m altitude, temperatures are moderate year-round. With extensive training facilities and only one hour time difference from Japan, it is the most popular location for Japanese athletes to conduct high-altitude training.
The Beijing Olympics Women`s 10000 m Team
1-3 Japanese women will compete. Any woman who has met the Olympic A-standard (31:45.00) since Jan., 2007 is elligible, but to be guaranteed a spot on the team a qualified athlete must win June`s National Track and Field Championships. A good placing will also elevate a runner`s chances. 7 women have met the A-standard, including Kinukawa, Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshokki). Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) has not yet met the Olympic B-standard (32:20.00) but is expected to make the Trials.