Skip to main content

Arata Fujiwara Quits JR Team to Go Independent

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/other/100401/oth1004011944017-n1.htm
http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/track/news/20100402k0000m050045000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Arata Fujiwara, 28, the runner-up at February's Tokyo Marathon and a member of last summer's World Championships marathon squad, quit his position and job with the JR Higashi Nihon jitsugyodan corporate team on March 31. As of April 1 Fujiwara is no longer part of the jitsugyodan system and will instead pursue his hopes of a successful running career as an independent. Athletes such as 400 m hurdler Dai Tamesue (APF) train and compete without a coach or team, but in the distance running world it is an unheard-of move for a competitive athlete to go independent.

According to JR East Japan head coach Tetsuji Iwase, Fujiwara is very strongly motivated to pursue his own route to the London Olympics. "Over the last six months we tried to persuade him to stay, but he told us, ' It has been my dream to try to do it this way since I was a high school student,'" said Iwase. "His mind was made up."

Born in Nagasaki and a graduate of Isahaya High School and Takushoku University before joining the jitsugyodan system at JR Higashi Nihon, Fujiwara ran 2:08:40 to finish 2nd at the 2008 Tokyo Marathon, earning a spot as the alternate on the Beijing Olympics team.

Translator's note: This is big news. As far as we are aware, Fujiwara is the first Japanese man ever to make this kind of move at the peak of his marathoning career. To the best of our knowledge Naoko Takahashi, the Sydney Olympics marathon gold medalist and the first woman ever to break 2:20, is the only precedent in Japanese women's marathoning for a runner going independent. Team Shiseido head coach Manabu Kawagoe left with four of his top women in 2007 to form the Second Wind club team. In his extensive, exclusive two-part interview with JRN published in the February and March issues of JRNPremium, Fujiwara talked about his hopes for the future post-March 31.

Comments

Nobby said…
Interesting news, Brett. Just curious, though... I'm assuming he "went pro"???

In the past, Japanese athletes (and coaches) had changed the team, which is rare anyways. Famous ones would be Hayata (forgot his first name now) who hopped around the team and someone even wrote a book on it--"The Man Who Was Too Fast". A very interesting read.

When Masako Chiba, as the bronze medalist in the World Championships 10000m, quit Asahi-Kasei, it made a bit news. She was independent (not so much as a pro) for a while until she went to Koide-san.

To be honest with you, I don't have too good of a feeling about this move, unfortunately (assuming he did go pro). He is probably 2 minutes too slow to go pro.

First Japanese athlete to have "gone pro" was actually Yuko Arimori, not Takahashi.
Brett Larner said…
I think one of his main motivations was wanting to race overseas more and not liking being limited by the East Japan Jitsgyodan Ekiden in early Nov. He believes he is capable of a much faster time.
Nobby said…
...Or a bigger pay check? ;o)

I actually had a chat with Yuko Arimori on this very topic; pros and cons of corporate team environment. In her case, with 2 Olympic medals, she was "wanted" enough. But I think, with "only" 2:08 and no medal around his neck, it might be a little difficult... Sure, faster times might be possible for just about anybody. Yuko said, however, in her case when she tried to run NY; "I had to pay my own way to NY to do course checking and everything..." That would help in order to attempt faster times but would he afford to do that on his own? As you know, Q-chan did that over Sydney course like 4 or 5 times!
Brett Larner said…
From talking to Fujiwara last month I have the impression that he has something he wants to accomplish beyond just getting more money. I'm very interested to see how he pursues it.

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons, in its six runnings to date the Osaka Marathon has continued to avoid the addition of a world-class elite field of the same caliber as at equivalently-sized races like Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. In place of doling out cash to pros, Osaka's women's field has developed into a sort of national championship race for amateur women.

In the field this year are six, probably all six, of the amateur Japan women to have broken 2:40 in the last three years. Last year's top three, Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) lead the way at the 2:36 +/- level, with a second trio of Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo), Mitsuko Ino (R2 Nishin Nihon) and Chika Tawara (RxL) all around the 2:39 level.

Last year's winner Sakamoto and 3rd placer Yoshimatsu squared off in September at Germany's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, Yoshimatsu tying Sakamoto's Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 to take 3rd over …

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…