translated and edited by Brett Larner
Former teammates at 2012 National High School Ekiden champion Toyokawa H.S. and now two of the biggest stars on the Hakone Ekiden circuit, 2015 National University Half Marathon champion Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin University) and 2015 National University 5000 m champion Hazuma Hattori (Toyo University) are set to follow unconventional paths post-graduation.
At a press conference this week GMO Internet announced that Isshiki will join its new GMO Athletes team after his graduation next spring. Isshiki finished as the third Japanese man overall and second university finisher in his marathon debut at February's Tokyo Marathon, running 2:11:45 to position himself as a hopeful for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Having received recruitment offers from ten different corporate league teams, after careful consideration Isshiki opted to join GMO in order to follow a path to the top of the world under the respected leadership of brand-new head coach Katsuhiko Hanada, 45.
Isshiki commented, "I will pursue my goal of making the Tokyo Olympics marathon as a member of this team. I am very pleased to be able to receive first-class support from GMO chairman, president and CEO Masatoshi Kumagai and to receive the guidance from coach Hanada, both as an athlete and as a person, that I will need to make that goal a reality."
Isshiki has run the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage, the Second Stage, twice, finishing 3rd both times. His Tokyo Marathon debut this February demonstrated his potential at longer distances, and his 4th-place finish as the top university man in last month's National Championships 5000 m showed he has speed as well. Coach Hanada commented, "To begin with the goal will be to run 2:08. Next after that will be the 2:06:16 Japanese national record or even Japan's first 2:05. He has the talent to compete at the world level."
GMO Internet launched the GMO Athletes team this spring. To pursue the goal of becoming #1, chairman Kumagai, 52, has promised to provide team member with first-class facilities and treatment. Aoyama Gakuin University head coach Susumu Hara, 49, serves as advisor to the team.
This week 5000 m collegiate champ Hattori also announced that he will join the second-tier Toenec corporate team, just 35th at this year's New Year Ekiden national corporate championships, after graduating next spring. Following the appointment of Tadaaki Matsuura, 48, to its head coach position last year, the Toenec team is in the midst of rapid growth, regularly doing altitude training at roughly 1800 m elevation at the Hida Ontake Plateau in Gifu Prefecture three hours from its home base in Nagoya, Aichi.
Hattori received offers from many of the strongest corporate league teams, but putting the training environment as a top priority he opted for Toenec. His older brother Yuma Hattori, 22, joined the Aichi-based Toyota corporate team after graduating this spring. Hazuma will compete with Yuma, Isshiki and others for a place on the Tokyo Olympic team.