Tohoku Fukushi University alumna and 3000 m steeplechase specialist Ayaka Koike (27, Owada Jitaku Sendai) is back training at her alma mater to make the most of the extra year ahead in her bid to make the Tokyo Olympic team. Last September Koike won the 3000 mSC at the National Corporate Track and Field Championships in 10:06.06. Having once drifted away from the sport, her win marked a return to its top level nationally. In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus crisis all of her planned races from April have been canceled, but, she has chosen to take that headwind and turn it into a tailwind.
"I came back here and set making the Tokyo Olympics as my goal, but to be honest there wasn't really enough time to be ready," she said. "I told a lot of people, 'If I had another year then it'd be pretty interesting.' Now that I've got this year, I can get in really good training. It's not a minus, it's a plus."
Due to family circumstances Koike left the Edion corporate team in 2018, getting a job with the Owada Jitaku Sendai housing corporation through another Tohoku Fukushi University alumnus. She now trains under the supervision of Tohoku Fukushi head coach Masamori Kabuki. "Making the National Team is also Coach Kabuki's dream," Koike said. "I compete in order to try make that dream come true. I won't give up until I make the World Championships or Olympics."
In order to achieve her dream, Koike has a tough challenge ahead of her. She will need to improve on both her #5 national ranking and #123 world ranking, as well as improve significantly on her 10:04.73 PB. She'll need to score rankings points in competitions from Dec. 1 on. Looking ahead to her plan for her Olympic buildup she said, "First of all, I need to break 10 minutes. In order to move up in the world rankings I'll need to get down to the 9:40s. Every race next season will be important. I want to take some wins, move up in the rankings, then win the National Championships."
Ayaka Koike - Born Apr. 9, 1993 in Sendai. 27 years old. Began running track at Seiwa H.S., winning the Miyagi Prefecture Championships 800 m her third year. Her fourth year at Tohoku Fukushi University she finished 10th in the National Championships 3000 mSC. She ran the First Stage for Tohoku Fukushi at the National University Women's Ekiden Championships. At the 2017 National Championships she improved to 4th in the steeplechase at the National Championships. In 2018 she joined Owada Jitaku Sendai, winning the 3000 mSC at last year's National Corporate Track and Field Championships. 158 cm, 45 kg. Her family includes her parents and an older brother.
translated by Brett Larner