translated and edited by Brett Larner
Now an assistant coach at the Fujitsu corporate team where he spent his professional career, former marathon national record holder Atsushi Fujita, 38, will return to his alma mater, 2011-2014 National University Men's Ekiden champion Komazawa University, in April to take a position as assistant coach. Fujita has already been coaching at Komazawa twice a week but as of the start of the new academic and fiscal year in April he will leave Fujitsu and become an employee of Komazawa to focus all of his energy into helping develop the country's top collegiate talent. "It's a great responsibility," Fujita said, facing his new position with full seriousness.
As a student at Komazawa Fujita ran the Hakone Ekiden all four years from 1996 through 1999. As a senior he broke the course record on Hakone's competitive Fourth Stage prior to its shortening to its current length of 18.5 km. While he was a student there Komazawa never managed to take the final step to the overall Hakone win, but the year after he graduated it finally scored that long hoped-for victory, the first of six in nine years. Since then Fujita has been credited as the man who laid the foundations on which Komazawa became a giant. At the Fujitsu corporate team he ran a then-Japanese national record of 2:06:51 to win the 2000 Fukuoka International Marathon. Since his retirement in 2013 he has been gaining valuable leadership experience as a member of Fujitsu's coaching staff.
Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi, 56, commented, "Fujita is the best athlete in the history of Komazawa University. He will make an outstanding and supportive coach," placing his full trust in Fujita. "In terms of age," Oyagi added, "I can't keep doing this forever," suggesting that he may be grooming his former star to succeed him as head coach. Fujita could turn out to be the secret ingredient Komazawa needs to take it back to the Hakone Ekiden victory stand for the first time in eight years.