translated and edited by Brett Larner
Having helped lead Toyokawa H.S. to its first-ever National High School Ekiden Championships title, women's long-distance runner Nanaka Izawa (Sr., Juntendo Univ.) has signed a contract to join the 2012 national champion Universal Entertainment corporate league team following her graduation next spring. At Universal she will also receive coaching from the legendary coach of Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi, the Universal-affiliated Sakura AC's Yoshio Koide. Currently doing student teacher work back at Toyokawa, Izawa showed her resolve as she said, "My future is in the marathon, and the Tokyo Olympics are my goal."
At the National High School Ekiden Championships Izawa ran the Third Stage as a first-year, the Second Stage as a second-year, and the ace First Stage as a third-year, winning each of them. When she was a second-year in 2008 Toyokawa won its first-ever national title, repeating within a follow-up win in 2009. After entering Juntendo University she suffered a long period of injuries, but on the 9.2 km Fifth Stage last month at the National University Women's Ekiden Championships, the longest and most competitive leg of the race, she returned to the top with a stage win. "I was surprised too," she smiled. "I was really, really happy." The stage title was proof that she had finally worked out the issues that led to her serial injuries. The years of setbacks meant that her university career was nowhere near as stellar as her high school years, but, she said, "I've learned to be able to think about my training for myself and from that things have been improving bit by bit. These four years were an investment in the future me."
Izawa received offers from a large number of corporate teams, but the chance to work with Koide was the deciding factor. "I think he's the greatest coach in the world," she said, "so I have asked Mr. Koide to guide me." In addition to taking Takahashi to her Olympic gold medal and world record, Koide also led Yuko Arimori to two Olympic marathon medals, silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, to solidify his reputation as one of the world's leading marathon coaches.
Up to now Izawa has focused mostly on 5000 m and 10000 m track races. Looking toward the future she said, "I know it's probably not realistic to jump straight to the marathon, but I want to start making the migration in that direction." With the 2020 Olympics just seven years away this period will see intense attention paid to the activity and achievements of Izawa's generation. "My career goal is to win a marathon medal at the Tokyo Olympics," she said with full determination. "The challenge for me now is to develop the means to make that goal a reality."