translated by Brett Larner
Based in Fukushima Prefecture's Naruto, beverage maker Otsuka Seiyaku is helping a select crew of young women to achieve their dreams through sports. This month the company announced the formation of a new professional women's track and field team. 2009 Berlin World Championships national team member and world-class race walker Masumi Fuchise leads the initial lineup of five middle and long distance athletes, with additional spots expected to be filled to allow Otsuka Seiyaku to field a women's ekiden team. The new Otsuka Seiyaku team's approval by the Jitsugyodan Track and Field Association is pending, and head coach Tadasu Kono is optimistic about the future as he says, "Especially in times of recession such as these it's important to do something to help inspire the community through sports."
Otsuka Seiyaku founded its men's team in 1990. Athletes who have run under Kono's leadership at Otsuka Seiyaku include Takayuki Inubushi, the first Japanese man to run 2:06 for the marathon. Tokushima is known for the strength of its male runners, but the prefecture's women's team is typically one of the weakest at the National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden. Kono received the OK to go ahead with the foundation of a women's team partially out of hopes that it will help to strengthen the overall level of athletics in the prefecture.
Transferring to the team alongside Fuchise are Miho Noguchi, formerly of Team Hitachi, Ritsumeikan University graduate Rei Miura, and two new high school graduates. Joining Kono on the team's coaching staff is former Team Tenmaya assistant coach Eri Amo, making for a strong base from which to build.
Along with helping to promote its corporate sponsor in ekidens and other races, this new jitsugyodan team aims to help its members reach their individual goals. Coach Kono is aware of his responsibilities, saying, "Through sports I want to show our supporters in the company who might not have been able to achieve their own dreams that there is still hope." "It's so interesting to be part of a group writing its name in history," added Fuchise. Noguchi closed by saying, "I hope this will be a team where everyone can make their dreams come true."