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.