translated and edited by Brett Larner
A 2012 London Olympian and 5th in last year's Moscow World Championships 10000 m, Hitomi Niiya (25), announced her retirement Jan. 31 at a press conference at her sponsor Universal Entertainment's head office in Ariake, Tokyo. With regard to her early retirement at just age 25, Niiya gave the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis in her right foot in November, 2012 as her main reason. "When I found out the situation with my foot I was so relieved," she said. "At that moment I thought, 'Now I can get down off this stage and finally quit this sport.' When they asked if I wanted to keep running to the point of needing surgery my answer came out immediately." At that point she made the decision that the following year's World Championships would be her final world-level competition.
At those World Championships Niiya led the Africans to the very end and ran her PB of 30:56.70, but, she said, "I took them all on and gave it all at the World Championships and didn't medal. If you can't medal it disqualifies you as a professional. I thought there was no choice but to put a period at the end of that sentence." She also revealed that at the World Championships, "After I finished running the pain was like nothing I'd gone through up until then, really beyond the threshold." Combined with her injury that race seemed to be what pulled the trigger on her career.
Looking at her life as an athlete until now Niiya said, "Once I'm a granny I might think, 'Man that was hard,' but right now I have nothing but good memories." Her favorite race memory was of winning the National High School Ekiden Championships while at Kojokan H.S. Asked about her future plans she said, "It's a complete blank. I can't imagine what I'll be doing. I can't do anything useful for society, but I will completely cut off connection with the world of athletics." At one point she cried with her mother, but until the end of the press conference she remained true to the Niiya style as the curtain came down. To young athletes who dream of taking on the world she said, "Always do what you think is the right thing no matter what anybody tells you."
Translator's note: Niiya never raced again after Moscow.