translated by Brett Larner
Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi (36, Team Phiten) held a press conference in Tokyo on Oct. 28 to announce her retirement from professional running. Sakura AC head coach Yoshio Koide (69), the man who led her to greatness, still has not 100% accepted the news. "I didn't think she would quit," Koide regretfully told reporters in the arrivals lobby of Tokyo's Narita Airport after returning from a training camp in Kunming, China on Oct. 28. "Maybe she is just worn out. It's such a waste...."
Koide and Takahashi were together for ten years, from her early days with Team Recruit in 1995 until 2005. That year Takahashi, expressing a desire for independence, relocated to Boulder, Colorado in 2005 to continue training without a coach. At the time she commented of Boulder, "I have to admit that I love it there." But the bond between the two remained in place.
At 8:30 on the morning of Oct. 28 Koide received a call on his cell phone. It was Takahashi. "I'm sorry not to have told you earlier," Takahashi said after giving him the news of her retirement. Koide's first reaction was to blurt out, "What happened? Are you getting married?" "No, absolutely not," Takahashi replied levelly. "We'll talk about it later."
"As far as I'm concerned," Koide somewhat wistfully told reporters at Narita, "Q-chan* still has the ability to get another Olympic medal before she's 40. She could still run around 2:20-2:22. She says she's spent everything her body has? She's never known how to train herself, that's why she thinks she's spent."
In terms of her future, Koide hopes that Q-chan will come back to join him in his 'Koide Dojo' training program for recreational runners. "Q-chan and I started the idea that 'The marathon is fun!' I want to give her something now of which she can say, 'Yes, this is a good way to end.' Koide's yearning for a reunion with his star pupil is clear as he waits in hope for her call.