translated by Brett Larner
In a visit to Lieutenant Governor Tomomasa Futsukaichi at the Oita Prefectural Government offices on Jan. 10, five Laotian athletes promised to run their best in the Jan. 14 Oita City Half Marathon. The five runners are coached in Laos by Oita native Kenji Ozawa, 46, a senior volunteer with the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Ozawa introduced each athlete individually, expressing his hope that they would all deliver good races.
Accompanying Ozawa in the visit to the Prefectural Offices were four men entered in the half marathon and one woman who will run the 10 km. Lieutenant Governor Futsukaichi commented, "I could sense the depth of the bond between Ozawa and his athletes. I hope to see them reap the full benefits of their training."
Ozawa began a two-year volunteer mission to help cultivate Laos' long-distance athletes in September, 2011, but returned to Japan last October due to health problems. With assistance from friends in covering the costs of airfare and other expenses while the Laotian athletes are in Oita he was able to push for their invitation to this year's race. "I want them to get a taste of the thriving Japanese road race scene and to take on the challenge of trying to compete in it," said Ozawa. Entered for the half marathon, Tamawanchatt Saisawatt, 21, said, "My times have improved a lot through training with Coach Ozawa. I want to run a fast time here."