translated and edited by Brett Larner
On April 26 it was announced that Beijing Olympics men's marathoner Atsushi Sato (33, Team Chugoku Denryoku) will take an indefinite leave of absence from the Chugoku Denryoku team to relocate his training base to his native Fukushima. Sato will remain affiliated with Chugoku Denryoku but will enter Fukushima University in October as a research student.
Born in Aizu, Fukushima, last year's disasters were a major turning point for Sato. Becoming a driving force in helping to alleviate the region's misery in the wake of the nuclear accidents has given him new motivation. With the understanding of his company, he chose to return to his hometown. At Fukushima University he will be researching the physiological effects of low-oxygen training while training in his hometown of Aizu as he targets next year's World Championships. Among the many others who have been separated from Fukushima, Sato's wife and 800 m national record holder Miho Sato (34) will also return with him to work with children's track and field clubs in the area.
After graduating from Waseda University Sato joined the Chugoku Denryoku team in 2001 and was a major part of the team's success on the ekiden circuit. He ran the marathon at the 2003 World Championships before setting the half marathon national record in 2007 and making the Beijing Olympics marathon team in 2008. At the 2009 World Championships marathon he finished 6th. Since then he has dealt with injury problems, missing out on his goal of repeating as an Olympian at this summer's London Olympics when he was unable to run his planned qualifying race. Sato commented, "When I think of how precious Fukushima is to me it gives me the drive to try to become competitive on the world level again."