translated by Brett Larner
On Feb. 23 Kanagawa prefecture, slated to host the northeastern African country Eritrea's pre-2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games training camps, announced the launch of the Sky Project exchange program. As the first event in the program, Beijing and London Olympic marathoner Yared Asmerom, 36, participated in an interactive event with local kindergarteners. Future activities will include similar events and promotion of Eritrea within Kanagawa.
On the 23rd, Yared visited nursery schools and kindergartens in two different locations in the prefecture. At one, the Seisa Group Aobadai Nursery School and Kindergarten in Aobadai, Yokohama, children enjoyed running together with Yared, who laughed and smiled as he high-fived each student. Yared told the children, "If you keep practicing seriously, then in sports or whatever other area you pursue, every one of you can become a champion." Aobadai kindergartener Chika Tenkawa, 5, commented, "Yared outran me, but it was fun. I want to get better at running."
Yared began running seriously at age 24. As a marathoner he was a late bloomer, but with accomplishments like the Eritrean national record of 2:07:27 to his name he has had a long reign as his country's best. With the goal of making his third-straight Olympic team this summer in Rio de Janeiro he plans to run the Czech Republic's Prague Marathon in May, one of the races used in selecting the Eritrean national team.
According to Yared, Eritrea's capital Asmara is ideally suited for long-distance training, being located at 2300 m elevation. At last summer's World Championships Ghirmay Ghebreslassie became Eritrea's first men's marathon gold medalist. "We have raised a talented young athlete who is achieving great things in the world," Yared said.
About Japan Yared told the children, "I love the Japanese people for their hard work and mutual respect for each other. I'll be 40 years old when the Tokyo Olympics happen, but even though my mind says, 'I want to run there!' it's all up to the health of my body." Despite the brief dip in his spirits in the face of the realities of aging, he added with wide, bright eyes, "But I will have the Kanagawa training camp to look forward to!"
Translator's note: Asmerom ran Sunday's Ome 30 km, finishing 4th in 1:33:24 behind marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).