translated and edited by Brett Larner
Aiming for its first seeded bracket finish in three years at January's Hakone Ekiden, Yamanashi Gakuin University's track and field team welcomed the tenth Kenyan student athlete in the program's history, Dominic Nyairo, 18, at the start of the new academic year in April. At a time trial meet on April 25 Nyairo broke 29 minutes for 10000 m, a time that puts him on the same level as the upper tier of athletes who run the Hakone Ekiden. YGU head coach Kiyoshi Ueda is optimistic about Nyairo's prospects, saying, "he is highly adaptable."
Nyairo is 1 m 67 cm tall and weighs 48.5 kg. Like the student athletes who preceded him at YGU, he comes from western Kenya. After his arrival on April 11 he enrolled as a first-year in YGU's Faculty of Modern Business. Because Nyairo can not yet speak Japanese, Ueda is coaching him in English.
Having a Kenyan on the team does not mean that he is simply there as a ringer to make the team more competitive. "We want him to study seriously at our university and to experience Japanese sports culture through the Hakone Ekiden," said coach Ueda of the concept behind the program for bringing Kenyans to Yamanashi, the personal connections developed this way leading to Nyairo's arrival in Japan.
Before his departure from Kenya, he met with one of his predecessors at YGU, Stephen Mayaka, now head coach at Obirin University and a Japanese citizen. Mayaka talked to him at length about the team and the Hakone Ekiden, convincing him to make the decision to study abroad. "Mayaka gave his seal of approval that Nyairo was someone with the personality to succeed in a team environment," said coach Ueda.
Currently a senior at YGU, Enock Omwamba commented, "Up to now I've been the only Kenyan here, so I'm glad he's coming." Omwamba has been giving Nyairo advice on training and on the proper way to greet people and other points of etiquette. "I know that it's hard at first, but I hope that he can gradually get used to life here," he said, expressing his support for his younger teammate.
Before coming to Japan Nyairo had a 10000 m best of 28:50. After learning basic drills and form, at the April 25 Nittai University Time Trials meet in Yokohama he ran 28:38.46. The effects of his new coaching environment were immediately clear. Looking toward Nyairo's future, coach Ueda was positive as he said, "First we have to help him adapt to the team. It's not the sort of thing that happens overnight, but he has the right kind of attitude."