translated by Brett Larner
The Japan Post Group held a press conference Oct. 1 in Tokyo to formally launch its new women's distance running team. Masahiko Takahashi, who helped train Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi and two-time Olympic marathon medalist Yuko Arimori, was named to the team's leadership position along with the announcement of an initial lineup of five female athletes headed by 2013 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist Ayuko Suzuki (Nagoya Univ.).
Scheduled to get underway at the start of the new fiscal year on April 1, 2014, the women's distance team is the first fully sports-oriented team that the Japan Post Group has sponsored since its founding. The strong and deep parallel between the postal service's mission of faithfully delivering letters and the ekiden's ideal of passing on the tasuki to those yet to come was the precipitating factor in the decision to sponsor the team. The new team's goals are both to win the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships and to develop athletes competitive at the international level, with an eye to both the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 150th anniversary of the postal service's founding. With only five athletes the team is not yet ekiden-ready, but the team management's goal is to have a fully-operational squad of twelve women within three years.
With a record of success training world-class athletes, head coach Takahashi spoke of his goals, commenting, "This will be my first time working to develop young athletes. It's important to help already-established athletes to refine what they are doing, but in terms of the potential to see how much someone can change and progress, [the chance to work with young athletes] is incredibly exciting and worthwhile."
Attending the press conference as a special guest, noted sports journalist Akemi Masuda interviewed the team's athletes. Asked why she chose the Japan Post Group team from among the countless corporate league teams eager to sign her, Suzuki said, "I really wanted to be part of a team that was starting from zero, and to help build it together with Coach Takahashi." Of her personal goals she said with confidence, "To begin with, I want to become as strong as I can on the track over 5000 m and 10000 m."