Skip to main content

Waseda Head Coach Watanabe at Retirement Press Conference: "I Did All I Had to Do"

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On March 9 Waseda University held a press conference at its Shinjuku campus in Tokyo to announce the transfer of leadership at the end of the month from ekiden team head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, 41, to incoming head coach Yutaka Sagara, 34.  Watanabe, who spent 12 years leading Waseda including one year as assistant coach, had a light and relaxed expression as he said, "I did all I had to do, and that's why I am stepping down now."

Watanabe developed two Waseda runners, 2008 Olympian Kensuke Takezawa (now 28, Team Sumitomo Denko) and 2013 World Championships team member Suguru Osako (now 23, resigning from Team Nissin Shokuhin at the end of this month) into world-class athletes, and under his leadership in the 2010-11 season Waseda achieved an unprecedented triple crown of course record wins at all of the Big Three university ekidens, Izumo, Nationals and Hakone.  A Hakone star since his own days as a collegiate athlete, Watanabe said, "The Hakone Ekiden made me what I am.  Now I want to give back to Hakone."  With a rueful smile of tribute to Hakone's uphill Fifth Stage stars Ryuji Kashiwabara (formerly of Toyo University, now 25, Team Fujitsu) and Daichi Kamino (3rd yr, Aoyama Gakuin University), Watanabe said, "Those guys really kept handing it to us on the Fifth Stage."

Incoming head coach Sagara has worked with Watanabe as assistant coach since 2005.  "From Waseda to World Class, those are our key words," the new leader of the most prestigious university team in Japan said of his aspirations.  "While we cultivate athletes who can compete at the international level we also work to help athletes who follow the difficult path of walking on as general admission students to develop.  When we can fully fuse these twin objectives then Waseda University will truly be able to deliver strength.  If we don't set a goal as ambitious and difficult as rewriting the course record [10:49:27] Aoyama Gakuin University set this year as our target then we will never win the Hakone Ekiden."

With an eye toward the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and beyond to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Watanabe will take on a new challenge in April.  At the Waseda press conference he avoided answering questions about his future plans, saying, "I'm not going to talk about what comes next here," but he confirmed that he will continue his mission of cultivating athletes who can compete against the best in the world by taking over as head coach of the Sumitomo Denko corporate team.  At Sumitomo Denko Watanabe will reunite with arguably the most talented athlete he has ever coached, Takezawa.

Translator's note: On March 11 Watanabe will travel with JRN to New York for his final official duty as Waseda head coach, overseeing Waseda star Koki Takada's U.S. debut at the March 15 United Airlines NYC Half.


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

Katanishi Scores Best-Ever Japanese Collegiate Placing at United Airlines NYC Half

Wearing bib #21 on his 21st birthday, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa University) turned in the best-ever Japanese collegiate placing at the United Airlines NYC Half, taking 7th in 1:03:05 just 26 seconds off the win.

Katanishi and his Komazawa teammate Shogo Ise earned invites to the NYC Half by taking the top two Japanese collegiate spots at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon. Off the tougher new New York course both Katanishi and Ise ran in the lead group for the first two-thirds of the race, Ise near the front and Katanishi biding his time at the back of the pack. When the first real move came on the uphill approaching Times Square Katanishi was quick to reposition himself into the top three just off the shoulder of leader Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.), staying in the action and looking smooth through the first set of Central Park hills. "I just took the early part easy and watched the others and what was going," Kat…