Saturday, January 23, 2016

Two-Time Olympian Hanada to Step Down as Jobu University Head Coach

translated and edited by Brett Larner

After leading Jobu University to eight-straight Hakone Ekiden appearances, head coach Katsuhiko Hanada, 44, has announced that he will step down from his position and leave Jobu University at the end of March following the end of the academic year.  In an interview with the Jomo Newspaper coach Hanada said, "In the future I would like to continue to be involved with developing athletes," but he declined to discuss the reason for his resignation or his specific future plans. Jobu finished last at this year's Hakone Ekiden.

During his time as an athlete at Waseda University Hanada set the stage record on the Hakone Ekiden's Fourth Stage, contributing to Waseda's overall win.  At the S&B corporate team he ran the 10000 m at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 2000 Sydney Olympics.  After his retirement as an athlete Hanada left athletics, but after receiving an email from the student manager of Jobu University's track and field team asking if he would become their coach Hanada began leading the team in April, 2004.  In 2008 a Jobu runner made Hakone for the first time as part of the Kanto Region Select Team, and the following year Jobu finished 3rd at the Yosenkai qualifier to seal its first Hakone appearance.  Hanada developed a reputation for enthusiastic leadership and for being able to turn athletes who had been nobodies in high school into solid Hakone runners.

Following Hanada's departure assistant coach Shigekatsu Kondo, 41, will take over as head coach.  At Kanagawa University Kondo ran the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage all four years, winning the stage twice and helping Kanagawa score its first-ever overall Hakone win his senior year in 1997.  After running for S&B he worked as head coach at Shoin University from 2005 to 2011 before joining the Jobu coaching staff in 2012.  In an unusual step, Jobu University is publicly advertising an opening for a new assistant coach to work alongside Kondo.  A university spokesperson commented, "Kondo is looking for someone with a similar positive mindset.  Looking at a wide range of people will help find the best talent and bring the best support to the team."

Translator's note: One of the most dramatic parts of this year's Hakone Ekiden was when Jobu University first-year Yuya Tanaka nearly collapsed on the Seventh Stage.  Tanaka's alarming struggle was omitted from the "Mo Hitotsu no Hakone Ekiden" documentary, suggesting it may have had a serious impact on Hanada's future at Jobu.  Jobu's Hollywood sports movie plotline rise partially inspired the movie adaptation of "Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru," with real footage of Jobu's 2009 Hakone debut used for scenes of the fictional team running in the movie.  When Jobu qualified for the 2009 Hakone Ekiden at the Yosenkai it was the first team to have its top ten cross the finish line.  On the broadcast when someone told Hanada this he giddily answered, "What!?!  Seriously?  This is a dream, right?"

Hanada was greatly respected by other coaches and runners.  Following the news of his stepping down Kansuke Morihashi, a senior at Daito Bunka University, tweeted: "Hanada is retiring?  Man, it's a tough world out there.  At Hakone this year he called out to me, a rival team's runner, over his coach's car loudspeaker and said, 'Come on, Morihashi, this is your last Hakone too!  Don't leave any regrets behind!  Run!'  I'll never forget him saying that."

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