Skip to main content

Takao Watanabe Resigns From Coaching Sendai Ikuei to Train Kinukawa Full-time in Leadup to London Olympics

http://www.kahoku.co.jp/news/2008/10/20081016t14028.htm
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/p-sp-tp0-20081014-418874.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A day after his prodigy Megumi Kinukawa (19, Team Mizuno) returned from prolonged illness to set a new women's junior national record of 31:23.21 in the 10000 m at the Oct. 13 Niigata Big Festa meet, Sendai Ikuei High School head coach Takao Watanabe (61) announced that he was resigning his position after 9 years with the school in order to focus on Kinukawa's development full-time over the next 4 years leading up to the 2012 London Olympics marathon and thanked the school warmly. "I'm very grateful for having had the opportunity to coach from my heart."

After taking over as head coach in 1999, Watanabe led the boy's ekiden team to 6 national title victories in the National High School Ekiden Championships, making Sendai Ikuei the top running high school in Japan. He also brought half marathon world record holder and Olympic marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya to Sendai Ikuei and was Wanjiru's first coach in Japan. Asked for his favorite memories from his tenure as coach, Watanabe cited his first season in 1999, the 2004 "God's Country" season when the team set the ekiden high school world record of 2:01:32, and last year when Sendai Ikuei edged out the 2nd place team to win despite both schools clocking the same time.
Watanabe's successor as head coach at Sendai Ikuei, Junichi Seino (24), paid tribute to the retiring leader, saying, "The legacy that Coach Watanabe leaves behind is profound and invaluable. It's a heavy weight to carry, but I will do everything I can to continue the leadership he personified."
Kinukawa attended Sendai Ikuei High School, where she set the previous women's 10000 m junior national record as a senior, qualifying her for the 2007 World Track and Field Championships where she finished 14th. A serious viral infection in the late fall kept her out of competition, including the Beijing Olympics, and reduced her training to just an hour of walking per day. On Sept. 20 she ran her first race in nearly a year, beginning a swift comeback which led quickly to her new junior national record and signalled that she was ready to pick up where she left off a year ago.
Watanabe began coaching Kinukawa when she was a student at Sendai Ikuei and is now devoting himself to cultivating this very special athlete. "More than running in the World Championships last year," Watanabe said of Kinukawa, "setting the new junior record yesterday was a transformative experience. She's not ready to think about challenging [Mizuki] Noguchi yet, but this result showed her that she's good enough to run at the world level."
Kinukawa's mark ranks her at 9th on the all-time Japanese women's 10000 m record list and clears the A-standard for next summer's World Championships in Berlin. "World-class level is coming closer one step at a time," said Kinukawa after her performance in Niigata, a great start on the road to the 42.195 km race 4 years distant.

This month, Kinukawa begins training full-time at the National Training Center in Tokyo. Watanabe chose to move from Sendai to Tokyo in order to dedicate himself to guiding her training as her private coach. "Japan's marathoning in the Beijing Olympics was like a blunt sword. I want to make sure this doesn't happen again in London," Watanabe told listeners, confirming that Kinukawa intends to make the marathon the focus of her career. "Kinukawa will run the marathon in the London Olympics."

At next summer's World Championships Kinukawa plans to race the 10000 m on the track, then in 2010 she will run her marathon debut. Still recovering from the illness which kept her out of competition for most of the year, her longest training run leading up to Niigata was only 16 km, but her training menu for the near future includes runs over 20 km. The next step is, according to Coach Watanabe, "Sub-31 minutes [for 10000 m] next year." Looking over Watanabe's training menus in his plan for a progressive buildup to the marathon, Kinukawa agreed and lightheartedly shrugged, "Yeah, I plan to do my best." After a miraculous comeback, Megumi Kinukawa has the potential to be the great redeemer of Japanese women's marathoning.

Translator's note: Watanabe's move, leaving the six-time national champion high school to focus on one athlete, sets up a relationship like that between Japan's two most revered marathoners, Takahashi and Seko, and their coaches, Koide and Nakamura. In four years today's story may prove to be historic.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …