translated by Brett Larner
A longtime home for top women over the past 59 years, on the first day of the new fiscal year today Asahi Kasei's women's team is no more. With the departure of members Yukiko Matsubara and Yukari Soh and no new women joining, the guiding light of the women's team has simply gone out. Matsubara is retiring from the sport, while Soh, the daughter of head coach Takeshi Soh, will continue working at the Asahi Kasei company and running on her own.
The Asahi Kasei track and field team was founded in 1946 in Nobeoka, Kyushu with a women's team added five years later. The team initially consisted primarily of sprinters, but over time its emphasis shifted to longer distances and it began to produce international-level athletes. 1988 Seoul Olympics marathoner Misako Miyahara, 1993 Stuttgart World Championships marathon bronze medalist and 100 km world record holder Tomoe Abe, and Olympian and two-time World Championships medalist Masako Chiba all belonged to Team Asahi Kasei.
However, recent athletes have tended to prefer to stay within metropolitan areas in Kanto and Kansai. Asahi Kasei scouts had increased difficulty doing their jobs, and in 2007 they were unable to sign any new runners meaning that in 2008 the women's team fell to two members. With the departure of Matsubara and Soh there is noone to replace them. Head coach Soh commented, "It's not that we are closing the women's team or that we won't hire any more new women. If any good athletes are interested they are welcome to apply."