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Olympic Sprinter Yamagata Turns Down Corporate League Offers to Train in U.S. With Seiko Sponsorship

translated by Brett Larner

On July 23 it was announced that London Olympics sprinter Ryota Yamagata (22, Keio Univ.) will join Seiko Holdings Corporation and be based in California, U.S.A.  Yamagata's decision was a big one, made in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  Turning down offers from many top corporate league teams, he entered into a sponsorship agreement with Seiko Holdings, manufacturers of watches and other precision mechanical equipment.

Seiko does not currently have a track and field team, but Yamagata intends to move to California by himself following his graduation next spring and as part of his agreement with Seiko, at his own request he will be responsible for choosing his coach, trainer, training location and environment himself.  "Maybe I could have gotten the best support somewhere else, but I want to open up new ways of doing things," he commented.  Having developed his training menus through his own study ever since high school, Yamagata's decision to go it alone comes as no surprise.  He plans to brush up his language skills from now until next spring.  "I'm okay when it comes to everyday conversation," he said.  "I just have to study more."

Seiko first became the official Olympic timekeeper 50 years ago at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  As an official partner of the IAAF it is also the official timekeeper of the World Track and Field Championships, giving it a strong connection with the world of athletics.  "Yamagata will be 28 at the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and that will be the culmination of his career," said Keio University head coach Shintaro Kawai.  "After his retirement he will have the option of working at Seiko if he wants, which was also part of the decision."

In the 2012 London Olympics heats Yamagata ran 10.07, the fastest-ever by a Japanese athlete at the Olympics.  Following that he went through a period of injury, but expectations are still high that he will bring Japan its first sub-10.  By taking his game to one of track and field's great powers, Yamagata is aiming to go even further.


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