translated by Brett Larner
The views expressed in this editorial are those of the original author.
In a rainy Olympic women's marathon, the top Japanese finisher was Ryoko Kizaki (27, Team Daihatsu), 16th in 2:27:16 as the Japanese women missed out on the medals and even the top ten for the second Olympiad in a row. Yoshimi Ozaki (31, Team Daiichi Seimei) was 19th in 2:27:43, while Risa Shigetomo (24, Team Tenmaya) ran 2:40:06 for a lowly 79th place. By comparison, Tiki Gelana (24, Ethiopia) set a new Olympic record as she won in 2:23:07. The Japanese women were totally defeated and could not even improve on top Beijing Olympics Japanese finisher* Yurika Nakamura's 13th place. What has happened to Japan?
"It's not so much that the international level has gotten more competitive, it's more that Japan has stopped going anywhere," says double Olympic marathon medalist and TV commentator Yuko Arimori (45). She feels that one of the main reasons is the way the runners train nowadays. "I'm not familiar with every single team's way of doing things," she qualifies, "but these days our athletes are only doing 'doable' training."
In other words, our runners are only training at a level they can handle. "No matter whether you crash and burn, when you do the workouts you really hate, that's when you find out what really suits you and when you grow. Back in our time it was unthinkable that a coach would discuss the training plan with the athlete." Rebuilidng the historic success of Japanese women's marathoning will only happen on the bedrock of those hard, unpleasant workouts they don't want to run, she emphasizes.
With regard to this year's Olympic team, Los Angeles Olympic marathoner and former federation Long Distance Development Committee member Shigeru Soh (59) commented, "The best PB among our women this time was 2:23. If you compare it to past Olympics that is 2-3 minutes slower. Being able to get on the Olympic team with a time like that pretty well represents the state of things in Japan now. I think both the quality and quantity of their training is going down. We don't have any athletes who can train hard like Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchi used to."
Will our women marathoners be able to turn things around in the future?
*Translator's note: Nakamura was the only Japanese woman to finish in Beijing after just two started.