translated by Brett Larner
An injury is an accident and therefore something unavoidable. This is the viewpoint of Rikuren, the governing body of Japanese track and field. Everyone understands that Olympic marathon representatives need to push their bodies to the limit and drag themselves through incredible extremes of distance to be Olympic material, but at the same time it must be called abnormal when first women's marathoner Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and then men's marathoner Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) pull out of the Olympic marathon at the last moment.
These withdrawals and other problems illustrate the lack of crisis management ability in the current Japanese system. Rikuren did not get control of Noguchi's situation before her injury became a serious fact. Both the men's and women's team alternates were omitted from the final Olympic team roster, meaning that neither was elligible to fill the available slots on the team and run in the Olympic race.
To what extent what Osaki's team in control of his condition? Coach Susumu Takano admitted that he had been optimistic. "Right on the verge of leaving Japan I heard that Osaki felt like something was wrong, but I thought that after arriving in Beijing we could get some good medical treatment and it would be okay." Asked at a press conference whether something was wrong with the system in the face of the problems with both the men's and women's teams, Takano evasively responded, "That's something to talk about after tomorrow's race. There are athletes present here who will be running and I'm not going to talk about that kind of thing right before they have to compete. I want them to be in a position to run their best performances." That may be so, but if anything is going to shake the confidence of the other athletes it is not a coach's words but seeing those with whom they have shared the bonds of training broken and unable to compete.
With regard to the problems among this year's Olympic marathoners, if information about possible injuries had been available more quickly then the worst might have been avoided. Rikuren official Keisuke Sawaki apologized to the public, bowing deeply and saying, "I'm deeply sorry for the disappointment brought by our men and women." A valuable lesson has been taught to the Japanese running system.