Skip to main content

Waseda Ace Osako to Join Salazar's Nike Oregon Project

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In a Dec. 25 interview about the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, Waseda University junior Suguru Osako, Japan's #1 collegiate runner and one of the brightest hopes of Japanese men's distance running, revealed that he will join the 2012 national champion Nissin Shokuhin team following his graduation in 2014.  Osako's long list of achievements includes the 2011 National University Championships 1500 m title, the 2011 World University Games 10000 m gold medal, and the Asian junior half marathon record.  He chose the Nissin team, he said, "because they are going to give me the freedom to do what I want to do."  According to Waseda head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, Osako plans to move to Portland, Oregon to be coached by one of marathon legend Toshihiko Seko's great rivals, American Alberto Salazar.

Coach Watanabe revealed, "Starting next year Osako is going to be based in the U.S.A. for his training."  His destination is the Nike Oregon Project in Portland, Oregon.  The pride of Waseda, Osako has been accepted into a special program for advanced students. Beginning in 2013, while continuing on as a member of the Waseda long distance team and as a student he will go to Oregon on a short-term foreign study program.  Following his graduation in 2014 he will join the Nissin Shokuhin team for competitions but plans to relocate to Oregon on a more permanent basis for training.

The Nike Oregon Project has the reputation of being one of the world's leading training environments, coached by the ruthlessly competitive Seko-era Salazar.  The group includes London Olympics double gold medalist Mo Farah (GBR) and London 10000 m silver medalist Galen Rupp (U.S.A.), one of only two non-African runners to have broken 27 minutes.

At this year's National Championships 10000 m Osako lost out to future Nissin teammate and fellow Saku Chosei H.S. graduate Yuki Sato by 0.38 seconds, missing a place on the Olympic team as a result.  Looking toward the 2013 Moscow World Championships and 2016 Rio Olympics teams, Osako was emphatic about his intentions, saying, "To be able to compete with the best in the world I have to train with a group that's strong on the track."

When Seko was unable to pass Waseda's entrance exams he spent time at America's University of Southern California before matriculating, but it is a truly exceptional case for a long-distance athlete to relocate abroad while still an active student.  It's a mark of how high Osako's hopes are.  Asked whether he thinks Osako has the ability to break the Japanese national records for 5000 m and 10000 m, 13:13.20 and 27:35.09, coach Watanabe said, "He is an athlete who is trying with all his heart to become one of the best in the world.  This will give him the chance to do the training that will let him target 26 minutes."  Maintaining his supervision of Osako during this time, Watanabe himself hopes to absorb some of the long-distance knowhow to improve his own coaching.

Before he sets off to pursue his dreams Osako will spend the New Year taking on Hakone. As a sophomore last year he won the First Stage.  All of his competitors from rival schools will no doubt be keying off him.  Coach Watanabe said, "He'll run either the First or Second Stage," but Osako himself said, "If I can, I want to be put on the Second or Third Stage. Whichever one I run I want to set a new course record.  The team atmosphere is as good as when we set all three university ekiden course records [2010-11], so I want to give us the momentum we'll need."  For Japan's #1 university runner Hakone's roads look set to lead on to the wide world beyond.

Suguru Osako - 3rd year, Waseda University.  Born 5/23/91 in Machida, Tokyo.  
1500 m: 3:42.68   5000 m: 13:31.27   10000 m: 27:56.94   half-marathon: 1:01:47

Translator's note: Osako was to have joined the Seko-led S&B team, which late in the summer abruptly announced its dissolution this coming March.  The second article linked above erroneously states that Rupp was the first non-African to have broken 27 minutes.  I have corrected the mistake in my translation.


TokyoRacer said…
Wow, that's pretty big news. It sure worked for Mo Farah.
Anonymous said…
Rumors were abound that the Bekele brothers might join Salazar. If that's the case - this kid will be training with the best of the best.
sadaharu honda said…
Best wishes for Osako to challenge to the world level training environment to challenge to the world records among other international athletes. As a Waseda gradate I wish him best.

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

Japan Dominates Asian Cross Country Championships

Japan dominated the 14th Asian Cross Country Championships Thursday in Guiyang, China, winning all four team gold medals to hold the hosts China back to silver in every race.

Japan's only individual gold came in the Junior Women's race, one of its usual areas of strength. Yuna Wada led a Japanese sweep of the top four positions to win the 6 km race in 20:43 with scoring teammates Ririka Hironaka and Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu just behind.

Wada Yuna of Japan wins Junior Women’s 6km cross country race of 14th Asian Cross Country Championship . Japan also won Team championship — Asian Athletics (@asianathletics) March 15, 2018
With the meet also serving as China's National Championships Chinese athletes won the individual gold in the other three races, Dan Li, Cairen Suolong and Jianhua Peng all showing better closing speed to beat their Japanese rivals by 3~4 seconds. Li won the Senior Women's 8 km by 3 seconds over Japan's Yukari Abe, leadi…