translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter
At last year's Tokyo Marathon Kawauchi qualified for the Daegu World Championships after running 2:08:37. Ever since then the 24 year-old government worker has been surrounded by a whirlwind of attention. He has been constantly approached by journalists, and whenever he goes to do his regular weekend training runs in Komazawa Park the cameras are clicking all around him as he runs. "If you can't take the pressure then you'll never become a strong athlete," he said, accepting this part of celebrity as a chance for growth.
Kawauchi went into Tokyo without the slightest intention of trying to get into the Olympics just by being the first Japanese man across the line. He did not view a time like his 2:09:57 from Fukuoka as even close to being competitive with the world's best and made it perfectly clear before Tokyo that he intended to go for a 2:07. His position as a candidate for the Olympic team on the basis of his Fukuoka result remains unchanged, but Kawauchi is not holding on to any thought of running in the Olympics. "If you're not good enough to be internationally competitive then you don't need to go to the Olympics," he said. "I tried, and it's over. Selection is based on results, and I do not think I will be picked." Having followed his own vision and failed, even in defeat the strength of Kawauchi's character and sportsmanship shine through.
Following the race Kawauchi shaved his head in atonement for his performance. "I felt that I had to give everyone who supported me a sign of my remorse," he said. "It's better that my shame be exposed for everyone to see." Click here for photos.