translated by Brett Larner
Hidekichi Miyazaki. Click to enlarge photo.
Competing among the age groupers at this weekend's National Masters Track and Field Championships in Tokyo, 99 year old Hidekichi Miyazaki of Kyoto stands out from the competition with 12 masters gold medals to his name. At the Masters meet, which gets underway 5 days before his 100th birthday on the 22nd, Miyazaki will be competing in the 60 m, 100 m and shot put. His goal is to add three more golds to his collection. "There's a lot of talk about all the disappeaing older people nowadays," he says, referring to the current scandal affecting Japan's census, "but I'd like to show how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle when you are older."
A native of Shizuoka prefecture, Miyazaki moved to Kyoto after retiring from his job at an agricultural cooperative to live with his daughter's family. To meet new friends he became a member of a Go players' club, but over the years his fellow Go enthusiasts and other friends one by one left this world. When he was 92 Miyazaki saw a TV program about a woman in her 90's who competed in the shot put. "When I saw that, I thought, 'This is something you can enjoy even if you are alone,'" Miyazaki said. The doorway to his new life in athletics was open.
In 2004 at the age of 93 Miyazaki entered the Masters' Championships for the first time. In 2006 he won the 100 m, his first national gold medal. To be honest, he was the only athlete competing in the 95-99 age group, but he nevertheless broke the goal tape running with all the passion his heart could muster and showed that dreams can come true no matter who you are.
In July the next year he fell and broke his left leg while taking old newspapers outside for recycling. His doctor told him that he had to prepare himself "for a life confined to a wheelchair." Facing a long 50 days of rehabilition in the hospital, he wrote haiku telling himself,
Physical rehab -
just another thing to be
endured in this life
My arms and my legs
are my powerful weapons
in the fight for life
Prior to the accident he had entered a November meet in Wakayama. He went to the meet to cheer for some friends, who told him, "Hey, why don't you run?" He decided to try the 60 m, running alone, slowly and shakily, in the soft shoes he wore for his physical therapy sessions. Nervously returning to the hospital afterwards with his gold medal, Miyazaki was greeted by his smiling doctor, who told him, "I can't believe you did it.....I'm so happy for you."
At the 2008 National Masters meet he faced two age group rivals but emerged victorious. Alarmed by the emergence of these "strong young" competitors, he also did the shot put for the first time. At an international meet last September he won three gold medals, running 29.38 for the 100 m. At last year's international and national meets he had tough competition in the shot put, but still emerged with two wins.
This year, the 1 m 53 cm, 42 kg Miyazaki "lost 3 kg training through the vicious summer heat." Every morning he ran to a local park from his house and back for training, more than an hour of running. "In the future I want to keep pushing the limits of how much I can run," he vowed with determination.
Update: Miyazaki succeeded in winning the 95-99 age group in all three events, running a meet record 16.30 in the 60 m, 30.50 in the 100 m, and throwing 4.04 m in the shot put. Click here for complete results. Miyazaki's 100th birthday is on Wednesday.