an editorial by Kenji Fujiyama
translated by Brett Larner
At the Mar. 12 Nagoya Women's Marathon, fresh new 22-year-old star Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) gave a straight up head to head challenge to Rio de Janeiro Olympics silver medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) on the way to finishing 2nd in 2:21:36 and becoming the fourth-fastest Japanese woman ever. Debuting marathoners usually avoid taking on the impossible and keep to their own pace, but Ando stayed with Kirwa determinedly, saying, "To win you have to go with it. Who cares what happens in the second half." These days there are a lot of athletes running with the weak motivation of targeting the "top Japanese" position from the start, but even after coming in at all-time Japanese #4, when Ando said, "I still showed weakness. I want to refine what I'm doing even more so that I can truly take on the world," many people felt a kind of glow about her that we haven't see for a long, long time.
Nevertheless, although August's London World Championships have started looking like something to get excited about, perhaps the best advice that could be given to Ando at this point is, "Have the courage not to overdo it." Fully recovering from the fatigue of this race and rebuilding her body from scratch in prep for the World Championships will take a fair amount of time. Even if you run the same 42.195 km in training the damage to the body in a race is completely different. And this was her first marathon. Even if she thinks that she has fully recovered, there's a good chance that once she starts up training again she won't be able to move like she imagines.
In the Olympic and World Championships of the past, more top athletes tended to go for the teams in January's Osaka International or oven the previous November's Tokyo International than in Nagoya. It's true that on the old Nagoya course wind tended to be an issue in making it difficult to run fast times, but with only five months between Nagoya in March and the Olympics or World Championships in August there was little time to fully prepare perfectly.
Looking at the facts, 2007 winner Yasuko Hashimoto finished 23rd at the Osaka World Championships. 2008 winner Yurika Nakamura was 13th at the Beijing Olympics, 2009 winner Yoshiko Fujinaga 14th at the Berlin World Championships, 2012 runner-up Yoshimi Ozaki was 19th at the London Olympics, 2013 winner Ryoko Kizaki was 4th at the Moscow World Championshiops, 2015 runner-up Sairi Maeda was 13th at the Beijing World Championships, and 2016 runner-up Tomomi Tanaka was 19th at the Rio Olympics. Not exactly a track record of success in Nagoya being connected success at international championships. The only exception is 2000 winner Naoko Takahashi's gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, but in that case the Olympics were held a month later than usual in September due to being held in the southern hemisphere.
Right now after her first marathon is the most important time for Ando in determining the future course of her career as an athlete. Of all the things she must do, the first is to recover completely. She absolutely cannot afford for her train to leave the station before everyone is on board. If it doesn't look like she is going to make it in just five months, she must have the courage to dare to bow out. It might be said that thinking that way could bring bad luck, but at long last a true world-class talent has appeared again and you have to hope that it is cultivated carefully.