translated and edited by Brett Larner
The Iwate Prefectural Masters Track and Field Association announced Mar. 22 that Kamaishi, Iwate resident Takashi Shimokawara, 104, holder of three track and field world records in the 100+ masters' category, was killed by the tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan following the major earthquake on Mar. 11. According to Iwate Prefectural Masters Track and Field Association director Teruo Yaegashi, 71, a neighbor said that he had seen Shimokawara evacuating with his son and daughter-in-law, but his whereabouts afterwards were unknown. His body was later identified among those at a site where rescuers were gathering the bodies of area tsunami victims.
Shimokawara was born in 1906. A physical education teacher for elementary and high school students, he became involved with track and field in his 50's. At age 98 he qualified for the National Masters Track and Field Championships in three different throwing events. At age 100 he set world records of 10 m 72 cm in the discus and 12 m 42 cm in the javelin, followed by another world record of 5 m 11 cm in the shot put at age 102.
Shimokawara was to turn 105 in July and planned to compete at this year's Nationals. With very few athletes in the 100+ category, Yaegashi said that Shimokawara wanted to be the one to create a new 105+ age group this season and was doing sets of 100 sit-ups and push-ups every day in training. "He was a gentle, cheerful and straightforward man," said Yaegashi. "He was very motivated before big meets to train to the point of being sore. If you told him that he was training too much he would laugh, 'Seems like I'm always ticking you off.' There is nothing I can say but that his death is a terrible pity. I'll never forget his smiling face."
Having anticipated a special victory award for Shimokawara at this year's Nationals, National Masters Track and Field Association director Kiyoshi Konoike, 73, said, "It is a shock. He was a national treasure for all masters athletes."