translated and edited by Brett Larner
Following the closing ceremonies of the Incheon Asian Games on Oct. 4, marathoners Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returned to Japan the afternoon of Oct. 5 with the main group of the Japanese delegation. JAAF Director of Men's Marathoning Takeshi Soh commented, "Neither of them ran spectacularly. They didn't seem to have much confidence."
In his international debut Matsumura won the silver medal in just his fourth marathon. "I was going for gold, so I'm completely disappointed, he said." He indicated that even while he was up front in the pack he had been wary of eventual gold medalist Ali Hassan Mahboob (Bahrain). "He stayed all the way in the back saving up his energy and only came up at the very end," Matsumura said. He called his own move at 35 km, "halfhearted," letting the race come down to a sprint on the track where he lost by a second. "More than just 1 second, there was a difference in our ability. I didn't see the win happening. I got some confidence from meeting my minimum goal, but I'm not strong enough to be internationally competitive."
Reflecting on his bronze medal-winning race, Kawauchi spoke honestly, saying, "If I was that close I should have won. Running in cool conditions like we had and not winning, not being able to get away even though I made some big plays, was weak in many ways. The [Bahraini] winner really had to work, seemed to be holding back some stomach trouble, and was totally exhausted at the end. It wasn't exactly a gathering of the world's best, but I couldn't win even a race like that. I have to train better."
Matsumura's training included 1100 km in July and 1000 km in August with a focus on speed training in September. Asked if there had been problems in his training Kawauchi said, "I did that 40 km time trial and lots of trail running. There were no mistakes. Compared to the Moscow and Daegu World Championships I ran well in training." With regard to whether his result told him he didn't have enough speed he said, "It's not a problem of speed, it's an issue of how much you have to spare. I would regret it if I started thinking I should leave a little in my legs [to take advantage of my closing speed]."
After finishing 18th at the 2013 Moscow World Championships, Kawauchi went for 24 km runs the morning after the race and the next day to try to shake off his disappointment. This time he also went for morning jogs on the 4th and before leaving Incheon on the 5th, but, he laughed, "As you'd probably expect, the 24 km runs in Moscow were kind of overdoing it, so I only jogged for about an hour and a half this time."
Matsumura said that he will be going for the Beijing World Championships and Rio de Janeiro Olympics teams. "Rio has been my goal since I was little," he said. Before that, "I want to race overseas a bit more to get more international experience." Regarding his future plans Kawauchi said, "I'm going to stay out of the Beijing selection races and work on getting better away from the pressure. I'm disappointed with this bronze medal. Gold and silver were right there before my eyes. If I didn't feel disappointed then it would be time for me to stop being an athlete. If Japanese men can't do better than this bronze medal then they'll never be competitive in the Beijing World Championships. Beijing, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the Tokyo Olympics will all look pretty bleak for Japanese men. I hope that nightmare doesn't come true."
Men's Marathoning Director Soh called on Kawauchi to still aim for the World Championships, saying, "I hope he has the courage to try again this winter season. You have to keep putting out results. If you are 'waiting' you won't be on the team."