Sunday, August 24, 2008

'Overcoming Tumultuous Year, Wanjiru Takes First Kenyan Olympic Marathon Victory'

http://www.iaaf.org/OLY08/news/kind=103/newsid=47356.html

The announcers on the Japanese television coverage of the Beijing Olympics men's marathon, including marathon legends Hiromi Taniguchi and Takeshi Soh, and later news coverage stressed that Wanjiru has trained in Japan since his mid-teens but did not mention that after returning to Kenya for training earlier this summer he sent lawyers to notify Team Toyota Kyushu that he would not be returning.

Wanjiru gave an interview in Japanese after his Olympic win, thanking the Japanese public for its support. Wanjiru's medal was the first-ever marathon gold by a Kenyan man. Both of Kenya's previous Olympic medalists in the men's marathon, Erick Wainaina (bronze, Atlanta, 1996; silver, Sydney, 2000) and Douglas Wakiihuri (silver, Seoul, 1988) also lived and trained in Japan before winning their medals.

2 comments:

Roberto said...

"... but did not mention that after returning to Kenya for training earlier this summer he sent lawyers to notify Team Toyota Kyushu that he would not be returning."

Wanjiru went as far as he could here. And that was quite far.

But he's one of the two best marathon runners in the world (yesterday's stunning 2:06 was the SLOWEST of his three marathons!) and he's got to focus on a career that doesn't involve spending 75 percent of his time preparing for corporate ekidens.

That all four Kenyan marathon medals were won by athletes who had been trained in the Japanese system is unquestionable validation (as if that were needed) of the training methods in use here, but I think more Japanese runners should think about running against the best in order to be the best. So few run regularly in London, Berlin, etc., and if you want to know what 2:05 feels like, so you can get there yourself, you have to be in the race.

Unfortunately, the corporate club system here, while it does produce excellent runners, produces them only in a narrow band (i.e. few track runners below 10,000; distance runners who spend the year focused on ekidens and perhaps one domestic marathon). The results of this system can be seen most glaringly at the National Track and Field Championships, at which half the athletes, it seems, are high schoolers or university students. [After school, you're either running ekidens, or your quitting the sport.]

A great system for what it does (turn out runners who can wear corporate logos in ekidens), but it won't turn Japan into an athletics powerhouse.

Brett Larner said...

Wanjiru ran 2:06:39 in Fukuoka.