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Former 10000 m National Record Holder and Olympic Marathoner Izumi Maki Dies of Breast Cancer at Age 49

On Oct. 24 it was learned that 1996 Atlanta Olympics marathoner and former 10000 m Japanese national record holder Izumi Maki died of breast cancer Oct. 18 at her home in Mino, Osaka. She was 49 years old.

Her coach during her days at the Globally and Wacoal corporate teams, Nobuyuki Fujita, 78, said that he last saw Maki in July at a reunion event for Wacoal alumni. "She didn't seem well at the time," he recalled. "I had heard that she was anti-cancer drug treatment, but it is still a shock."

Hisakazu Hirose, 53, assistant coach to Maki in those days and currently head coach of the Iwatani Sangyo team, visited to mourn her death on the day she passed away. Hirose last saw her in March, but at that time, he said, "She seemed totally normal. She wasn't the sort of person who would have just given up. When I saw her after she passed away it looked as though she was only sleeping, that if you called out to her she would answer. I couldn't believe it was true."

Maki married in 2003 and is survived by her husband Shigeyuki Yamaoka, 52, a director for Kansai TV, and their son. Yamaoka told reporters, "I planned to only have family at her funeral, but 60 or 70 people came to pay their respects. She was widely loved in our town and area."

Maki had been receiving outpatient treatment for her cancer, but since the beginning of the year her condition had declined. She was hospitalized on Oct. 7 for examination, but, telling the doctors, "I love my home," she was discharged on Oct. 13 to return to be with her family. On Oct. 14 she had dinner surrounded by her loved ones, but four days later left them for the final time.

"She truly loved her home and family," Yamaoka said. Maki had told him from early on, "When I go I want to leave from home." Respecting her wishes, Yamaoka decided to have the funeral and wake and their home, but because it was not big enough to receive large numbers of people made it a family-only service.

After retiring from her career as an athlete Maki was very active with her local schools and in the local community, serving as a PTA officer at her son's kindergarten and elementary school. The last time she was invited to a race as a guest runner was at the local Mino Marathon three years ago, but she remained active in the sport by teaching running and training clinics until last year.

Maki's local friends and the parents of her son's classmates knew her in a different way from the general public, saying, "She didn't seem like she had been an Olympian." One friend commented, "She never said a single word about that kind of thing." Yamaoka as well said, "There are probably people around here who didn't even know my wife had been an Olympian."

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translated and edited by Brett Larner

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