Skip to main content

What to Do When the Dream Comes True? Federation Officials Push Management Role as Kawauchi Fever Sweeps Japan

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Yuki Kawauchi at work a day after the Tokyo Marathon as media look on. Click here to enlarge.

Rikuren director Keisuke Sawaki, 67, Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee chief Toshio Kiuchi and other executive members of the Japanese athletics federation traveled to Kasukabe, Saitama on Mar. 2 to pay a formal visit to Yuki Kawauchi, 23, the amateur runner who qualified for August's World Championships marathon team by placing 3rd overall and top Japanese at the Feb. 27 Tokyo Marathon. "Since he is not affiliated with a corporate team, we had to talk about what the future holds," said Kiuchi. The federation dignitaries asked administration officials at Kasukabe High School, where Kawauchi is employed as an administrative assistant, for their help and support in getting Kawauchi to the World Championships.

In order to minimize the strain caused by the sudden rush of media attention upon Kawauchi, one of the main topics under discussion was the hiring of a personal manager. Rikuren officials feel the move is necessary in order to protect the Cinderella Boy. In conversation with Kawauchi and school administration officials, the Rikuren executives voiced concern, saying, "Since the morning after the race Mr. Kawauchi has been working at his job and doing interviews virutally continuously and has taken absolutely no rest. Of course we believe that he should continue to train the way he always has, but he is in need of someone to handle his daily schedule and training arrangements." The group strongly stressed the absolute necessity of a full-time manager and suggested that the federation would be the best party to fulfill this role.

With his 2:08:37 result from the Tokyo Marathon Kawauchi is now classified as a federation-sanctioned B-class athlete. Considering that this is only one rank below A-class half marathon national record holder and Berlin World Championships 6th placer Atsushi Sato (32, Team Chugoku Denryoku), the ranking is a mark of how important an athlete Kawauchi is to the federation. As a B-class athlete he will receive an annual stipend of 1,500,000 yen [~$18,000] to support his training along with a World Championships preparation supplement of 1,000,000 yen [~$12,000] pending confirmation of the results of post-race blood testing and ratification at the Rikuren general meeting on Mar. 15. In that respect, Rikuren executives' biggest fear is Kawauchi not having anyone to look after his interests.

With no team and no coach to support him on race day, Kawauchi's younger brother Koki, 18, wore the credentials for Kawauchi's coach and was in charge of his baggage. The morning after the race, Kawauchi went for a 30 minute jog at 5:30 a.m. before catching the train to begin work at 8:30, four hours earlier than usual due to the extra paperwork from incoming school entry applications. During breaks in his workday Kawauchi dealt with media interviews in his office and met with the Governor and other prefectural officials, a dizzying schedule. With no one in place to handle the media, phones at the school and Kawauchi's own cell phone have been overloaded with calls ever since the race. Kiuchi commented, "For the first two days Kawauchi received so many calls that he had to set his phone to accept them only from numbers he registered. He didn't know Rikuren's number, so he didn't register us and we had no way to contact him. I came here to present him with my business card. Since he is completely on his own it's important that he be able to answer calls, and this is something we at the (Rikuren) office can do for him."

To deal with the unworkably hectic situation in which Kawauchi now finds himself, Rikuren representatives strongly urged school administration officials to allow them to take care of all media requests. If Kawauchi indicates that he wants to run a race or take part in a training camp, Rikuren will assist with preparations. "We will do everything possible to help him be ready for the World Championships," said the federation officials. To protect the newfound treasure of the men's marathoning world, Rikuren's executives said their main goal is to help preserve an environment in which Kawauchi can maintain his focus upon his training.

With an apparent green light from the very top of the federation to continue training as he always has, Kawauchi is now looking toward the World Championships. "If I can be tougher over the second half than I was in Tokyo," he said, "I think at least top eight is realistic. I want to go for top six." He indicated that he plans to use the drink designed for him by Kasukabe High School cafeteria head Koji Nakayama, a mixture of orange juice, honey and lemon juice, at the World Championships. Vice principal Akio Hayashi commented, "Cutting back on his work hours to make time for training would be against Kawauchi's principles. We want to respect his wishes in every way."

Comments

Brett Larner said…
Somebody out there make a movie about all of this someday. I'll write the book.
Desert Dirt said…
Yuki superstar. Love this guy.
Daniel Hocking said…
"If I can be tougher over the second half than I was in Tokyo," he said, "I think at least top eight is realistic. I want to go for top six."

I'm not sure it is possible to run harder for the second half. I love this guy!
Brett Larner said…
I think my favorite thing in this story apart from the quotes in the last paragraph is that the very top people in the federation came to him in person cap in hand to talk.

I'm very glad to hear that it sounds as though they want to leave him in peace to do whatever it is he is doing to get where he did.

Most-Read This Week

Kim Sets Korean 5000 m National Record, Tsuetaki Clears Steeple Standard, Osako Comes Up Short - Abashiri Highs and Lows

The final meet in Japan's Hokuren Distance Challenge series, Thursday's Abashiri meet was set up to give people one last chance to clear the qualifying standards for next month's London World Championships ahead of the fast-approaching deadline. Temperatures were far above normal for northern Hokkaido through much of the day, the mid-afternoon peak reported at over 36C at the time of the men's 800 m A-heat and still at 25C at the start of the five standard-chasing races in the evening.

網走女子5000A https://t.co/GquthBd13K — ホクレン・ディスタンスチャレンジ2017 (@hokurendc2017) July 13, 2017
The best race of the day was the women's 5000 m A-heat. With two women already confirmed for London the third spot on the team was up for grabs. First in line under the JAAF's criteria for addition, top three at Nationals and under the 15:22.00 standard, was 16-year-old Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin H.S.), 3rd at Nationals in an U18 national record of 15:23.56. Next in line would be anyon…

Takamatsu Makes Return to Racing After Nike Oregon Project Disappointment

Running again in her hometown on the second day of the Osaka Track and Field Championships at Yanmar Stadium Nagai, 2014 Youth Olympics girls' 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (19, Osaka T&F Assoc.) took the first step toward a comeback. Closing the gap to the runner ahead of her on the second lap, Takamatsu finished with effort to spare in 2:14.51 for 2nd. "I was able to run the way I'd envisioned," she said afterward. "I had some anxiety since it was pretty much my first real race in a year but I was able to give it my best."

After graduating from Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. in the spring last year Takamatsu moved to Oregon, U.S.A. to take part in the "Nike Oregon Project" elite long distance group created by Nike. With a dream of winning gold in the 5000 m or 10000 m at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and high hopes in her heart, she crossed the ocean.

But in the U.S. she was hit by the cold hand of reality. "I was DFL every ti…

Additions to Japanese National Team for London World Championships

The JAAF has made a series of announcements over the last week confirming additions to its small team for next month's London World Championships. Along with previously announced rosters for track and field events, combined events and road events, the following athletes have been added to the Japanese team. Relay members are pending IAAF confirmation. The final complete team roster is expected next week.

Men's 400 m Hurdles
Ryo Kajiki (Josai Univ.) - 49.33
Yusuke Ishida (Waseda Univ.) - 49.35

Men's 3000 m Steeplechase
Hironori Tsuetaki (Fujitsu) - 8:29.05

Men's 4 x 400 m Relay
Yuzo Kanemaru (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 45.76
Kosuke Horii (Sumitomo Denko) - 45.88

Women's Javelin Throw
Yuki Ebihara (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 61.95 m

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved