translated by Brett Larner
Major Tokyo-based electronics manufacturer Canon announced that its subsidiary Oita Canon Materials Inc. will begin sponsoring a new women's running team in April. The team will be based in Oita and will be coached by former Oita Nishi High School head coach Michio Ito.
Oita Canon has already hired four professional and high school athletes from Oita, Nagasaki and Kagoshima Prefectures who will be employed at the company's Oita facility. It is searching for two more runners to bring the team's starting lineup to six. Among the runners already chosen for the team are Oita Nishi graduate Rina Abe (19), who runs for Team Oki but will lose that position when the team disbands at the end of March, and Yuka Yano (22), another Oita Nishi graduate who currently runs for Team Sysmex.
Under Coach Ito, Oita Nishi was a regular at the National High School Ekiden Championships. In his days at Tsurusaki Kogyo High School, Ito coached Team Kyudenko ace Mika Okunaga and 1998 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Akira Shimizu of now-defunct Team Toshiba LSI, gaining a reputation as a coach skilled at cultivating young talent. He hopes to bring Team Oita Canon to the National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden and to make the team a ground for bringing up the best of Kyushu's young runners.
The news comes as welcome relief to the Kyushu distance running world. At last year's Kyushu Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden only five teams ran, and in February electronics maker Oki announced that it would be disbanding its team. Incoming Kyushu Track and Field Association head Hiroshi Okazaki was warm in his praise of the decision. "It's been a long time since we've good news like this. Competitive jitsugyodan teams will make all of Kyushu's running scene stronger." Oita Canon, he feels, is, "not trying to just buy the fastest runners, but rather to help make local athletes stronger."