translated by Brett Larner
On June 30 Yukiko Akaba (28, Team Hokuren) was named to the Japanese women`s long distance team for the Beijing Olympics. Akaba gave birth to her daughter Yuna in August 2006; her addition to the Beijing 10000 m team makes her Japan`s first Olympic mother. Akaba was overjoyed at the news, saying, "This is really a dream come true. It validates everything I`ve done about staying with running after marriage and giving birth. At the Olympics I`ll be aiming to finish in the prizes." Her husband and coach Shuhei (28) agreed, "Right after giving birth Yukiko clearly stated her goals, and one by one she`s reaching them."
Akaba was born in Tochigi Prefecture. As a student at Josai University she won the silver medal in the 1999 Universiad Half Marathon and again the bronze medal in the 2001 Universiad 10000 m. She joined Team Hokuren in 2002 and set only two personal bests in the following four years. By contrast, since returning from giving birth she has run three new personal bests. She set her newest personal best in the June 27 National Track and Field Championships 10000 m, finishing 2nd by only a step behind national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo). Team Hokuren head coach Shuichi Morita expressed no disappointment in Akaba`s performance, however, commenting, "Being able to run like this after giving birth is extradordinary. I think she is special and I will do everything I can to make people take note of her running."
Akaba plans to take Yuna with her to Beijing and is busy getting her passport together. "I`m afraid she`ll get sick overseas," Akaba worried, "but she`s only caught colds twice so far so maybe she`ll be okay." Despite rising to the top of women`s distance running, Akaba shows that she is still a mother at heart.
Translator`s Note: I wrote a detailed profile of Akaba in March. It can be found here.