published 8/19/08 in the Nikkei Newspaper, and
translated and edited by Brett Larner
Beijing Olympics women's marathon competitor Reiko Tosa, 32, who dropped out of the Olympic marathon without warning, returned to Japan on Aug. 19, arriving at Narita International Airport at 7:30 p.m. Tosa favored her injured right foot and her posture suggested she was in a great deal of pain, but she drew consolation from the encouragement and support given by her fellow travellers.
In response to questions from reporters Tosa commented, "My right foot became swollen during the race, and it's still painful to walk. I think it's going to take a while to get better. The pain is pretty much constant, so I don't know if it'll get better on its own." There are no plans for Tosa to have an operation on the injured foot. Asked how it felt to return to Japan after dropping out of the race, Tosa wept openly, saying, "Before the race I didn't feel like I'd be able to reach my goals. The only thing I wanted was for it not to end by me dropping out."
At around the 10 km point in the Beijing Olympic marathon Tosa began to experience first discomfort, then pain in the toes and ball of her right foot, the area where she experienced difficulties while training in July. By 17 km her speed had dropped dramatically, and at 25 km she was pulled from the course by a Japanese Olympic Team official. It was her first time ever not to finish a marathon.
Tosa's husband Keiichi Murai, 34, was waiting for her at the 35 km point when he received an email from a friend saying, "Hey, Reiko looks bad." He quickly ran over to the 25 km with a premonition of disaster. When he saw how much pain she was running through, Murai called out to her, "Reiko, it's OK, let's stop this." An official with the Japanese team stepped out to catch her, and Tosa's Olympics were over.
Although reports surfaced in late July of an injury scare involving a bunion, or swelling and contortion of the joint between the toe and foot, on Tosa's right foot, the exact extent of the problem was concealed by Tosa's management prior to the race. After her withdrawal from the competition, Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's coaching staff admitted that the problem had been quite serious and that she had been unable to complete any of her 30 to 40 km runs while at a high-altitude training camp in Kunming, China prior to the Olympics, instead carrying out much of her training on an exercise bike. Tosa still wanted to run and an MRI failed to find any serious damage, so head coach Hideo Suzuki chose to allow her to enter the Olympic marathon.
Speaking of what comes next for her, Tosa visibly supressed her regret as she said, "I shattered my reputation in Beijing, so I want to take some time off to think about things. I haven't completely made up my mind if I'm going to retire or not. I'll take some time off and talk to coaches and other people." She went on to add that she does want to maintain her relationship with her teammates and hopes to compete in the upcoming fall ekiden season.