Thursday, April 1, 2010

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.

4 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.