by Ryosuke Sakasegawa, published 1/30/14 in the Asahi newspaper
translated by Brett Larner and Mika Tokairin
Sumo is not the only sport where you can train in Japan to become strong. Targeting the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Mongolia's #1 marathoner Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, 32, is set to join the NTN corporate team in Kuwana, Mie in April. Having won December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, Bat-Ochir looks set a threat to Japan's athletes at this fall's Asian Games and beyond.
Earlier this month Bat-Ochir took part in the NTN team's training camp in Miyazaki in preparation for the Feb. 2 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. At the time temperatures in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator were 30 degrees below zero, but after completing a 2 1/2 hour run surrounded by Japan's southern seas Bat-Ochir said, "Mongolia is too cold to train enough, but the environment here in Miyazaki is superb."
Bat-Ochir took up the marathon after graduating from the Mongolian National Institute of Physical Education. Watching a marathon on TV he thought, "It was interesting because you have to use your mind to win." In Mongolia he had no competition. Since 2003 he has run at every World Championships and Olympics but never placed better than 20th.
His times gradually improved, and in 2011 he broke 2:12 without the input of a coach. Telling a Japanese sports maker, "I want to train in Japan," Bat-Ochir received introductions to different corporate league teams and last year received an OK from NTN. In June just before the Moscow World Championships he did altitude training with the team at Ontake, Gifu.
"It's been 10 years since I started marathoning and I've never had a single injury," he said. "I don't get massages after workouts either and have never had problems." NTN head coach Tadayoshi Kametaka was surprised by this toughness, the exact opposite of Japanese athletes who often get injured and can't stay consistent in their training.
At the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Bat-Ochir took more than two minutes off his PB to finish in 2:09:00, beating civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) for the win. Afterward, coach Kametaka said, "There's no excuse if you lose to another Asian. I want to light a fire in Japan's younger athletes." With that line of thinking in mind, Kametaka made the arrangements for Bat-Ochir to be hired as a contract worker at NTN.
Of Sunday's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon he said, "I'm going for the win, whatever time that takes." Looking ahead to the Asian Games he said, "I will win the gold medal." Coach Kametaka said, "He has the ability to run 2:07."