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Atsushi Sato Planning to Run London Marathon

translated by Brett Larner

Beijing Olympics men's marathon competitor Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) is planning to race in April's London Marathon. Team Chugoku Denryoku head coach Yasushi Sakaguchi revealed his star runner's plans following Sato's 3rd place finish at the Feb. 1 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon.

In poor condition at the Beijing Olympics, Sato ran extremely badly, but as he entered 2009 Sato began to feel positive about racing again and recovered much of his previous form. Coach Sakaguchi commented, "It's not completely decided yet, but Sato himself strongly wants to do well in a race overseas this spring."

Translator's note: Atsushi Sato is the Asian record holder in the half marathon with a time of 1:00:25 from the 2007 World Half Marathon championships. He ran a PB of 2:07:13 at the 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon against Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) and Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) and has run 2:08 on two other occasions. He is widely hoped to become the first Japanese runner to clock 2:05 and has said that he thinks he is capable of such a time.

Although eventual gold medalist Wanjiru later said he had expected Sato to be among his main competition, Sato suffered some sort of breakdown prior to the Beijing Olympics and finished last. He ran poorly in the New Year Ekiden before a solid performance at Sunday's Marugame Half Marathon, which he appeared to do as a marathon training run.

Sato's coach Yasushi Sakaguchi became the director of national governing body Rikuren's new Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee men's marathoning division in December. Among the first moves of his tenure was the announcement that Rikuren would include results from major overseas marathons in choosing the team for the 2009 Berlin World Championships rather than only using domestic race results as in the past. This is likely to be a beneficial move in terms of helping to restore Japanese marathoning to an internationally-competitive position even though Sakaguchi appears to have a serious conflict of interest here.

If Sato runs London the way he should be able to, he will fit in well with the incredible elite field. After Beijing he said he would run his next marathon as a suicidal speed race.


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