Monday, August 3, 2009

1000 Colleagues See Kobayashi Off for Berlin

translated by Brett Larner

Over the weekend the Toyota Jidoshoki company gave its employees in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture the opportunity to wish its star runner Yuriko Kobayashi (20) well as she prepares to depart for Berlin to run in women's 5000 m at this year's World Championships. Over 1000 workers filled the banquet hall during their lunchbreak for the chance to see Kobayashi before her run. Women's track team advisor Masafumi Kato commented, "We are extremely happy that Ms. Kobayashi has made the national team again after running in last summer's Beijing Olympics. I'd like to ask you all to lend your voices in cheering her on to be among the top finishers."

After receiving a bouquet of flowers from the company, Kobayashi told her supporters, "I want to put myself into position to be near the top. Thanks to all of you I will gain strength and do my best."

Kobayashi graduated from Kobe's Suma Gakuen High School and is in her third year at Okayama University.* She is the national record holder for 1500 m and holds the all-time third-best time for a Japanese woman at 5000 m. In February she began experiencing pelvis and heel pain and took a break from training until May. In June she finished 3rd in the 5000 m at the National Track and Field Championships, clinching her spot on the World Championships team. She is scheduled to depart for Berlin on Aug. 14.

*Translator's note: Kobayashi, arguably Japan's most promising young woman, caused controversy among Rikuren officials when she enrolled in university after joining the professional Toyota Jidoshokki team. After keeping her in limbo for a year, Rikuren banned Kobayashi from competing in official jitsugyodan events until after her graduation, saying that they did not want to create a precedent of companies attracting top talent by offering to pay for a student's education.

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