Former World-Class Marathoner Hara Admits to Shoplifting During Athlete Days Due to Coach's Severe Weight Restrictions
Accused of shoplifting 380 yen [~$3.50 USD] worth of candy from a supermarket in Ota, Gunma in February while under probation in another shoplifting case, former World Championships marathoner Yumiko Hara, 36, now a restaurant worker, underwent questioning in her second trial at Maebashi District Ota Branch Court under judge Masaya Okuyama.
Crying as she spoke, Hara confessed to having shoplifted as an elementary school student. She said that as an athlete she had developed an eating disorder due to the strict weight restrictions and had resorted to stealing food. Even after retiring, she said, "I would throw up food after eating it."
"I was always hungry, always felt thirsty," Hara said of her time as an athlete. "They put severe restrictions on my weight that went way beyond what any other university or corporate team would do." She said that after joining the corporate leagues her coach would take her wallet away from her at training camps so that she couldn't go buy food. She gave in to the temptation to steal food, the first time she had stolen as an adult, she said.
Hara said that in the current case she had gone to the supermarket to buy bread and doesn't remember the moment she stole the candy. "The other shoplifting case had been in the news and it felt like someone was always watching me," she said. "I was too afraid to put the candy back." Her lawyer is pleading mental illness in her case based upon a doctor's assessment due to be issued this month.
Translator's note: After graduating from high school Hara joined the Kyocera corporate team. She later transferred to the Universal Entertainment team where she trained under celebrated coach Yoshio Koide. She placed 6th in the marathon at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships and has a marathon best of 2:23:48.
translated by Brett Larner