Skip to main content

What 36-Year-Old Kentaro Nakamoto Showed Us at the Olympic Trials

an editorial by Serika Ito

As the figure on the screen grew larger, I could feel myself unintentionally getting energy from it. Just past 31 km, the oldest man in the race, 36-year-old Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) took the lead in the chase pack behind breakaway frontrunner Yuta Shitara (Honda). It was one of the memorable scenes in last September's Marathon Grand Championship (MGC) Tokyo Olympics marathon trial race.

At one point Nakamoto was more than 20 seconds behind the chase group, but he had already proven himself in heat and excelled at race tactics and catching up. "Maybe there's going to be a Tokyo Olympics for him," I thought. I couldn't help starting to get excited.

Nakamoto was 6th in the 2012 London Olympics marathon and made three World Championships teams in the marathon, finishing as high as 5th and always in the top 10. I interviewed him many times over the years as he quietly build a track record of anonymous quality. Although he ended up 8th in the MGC, I'll never forget how he looked back on the race, telling me, "I showed who I am and made my presence felt."

I could sense how he felt about the Olympics and how well-prepared he was when I interviewed him two days before the race. He's fundamentally quiet, not somebody who speaks out. But in the words that escaped his lips, "I was able to train almost to the level of when I was at my best," and "I feel strongly about having made it here, and because of that I was firm and resolved and trained well," there was power.

After having gone through the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympic selection processes, his third shot at an Olympic team was a new experience. MGC qualifying races started in the summer of '17. Everyone who cleared the criteria had to line up in a single race that would decide two of the three people on the team. It was a system designed to bring an Olympic medal one step closer.

It was especially competitive among the men, with one after another Hakone Ekiden star lining up to take on the marathon. The national record that had stood for 16 years since 2002 was broken twice by the time the MGC came around. "The era has changed, and all the new athletes are taking it to a higher level," Nakamoto said. "It gives me joy to be among them, and I feel like I'll be able to contend with them for the Olympics."

Having been one of the people who helped lead the way to this new era, you could sense the pride that resonated inside his words. In all the years since Koichi Morishita won the silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics only three Japanese men have made the top 8 in an Olympic marathon. A year after he did it in the London Olympics, Nakamoto went one better with a 5th-place finish at the '13 Moscow World Championships.

Making the top 8 at global championships two years in a row is no small feat, but Nakamoto's feelings about it were unmistakable when he said, "The value of top 8 and a medal is completely different." At the London Olympics he was 1:39 from the bronze medal. In Moscow he was only 27 seconds away. "If I could medal in Tokyo," he said, "it would be a perfect culmination to my career as an athlete." Even now, he was still chasing those few dozen seconds to a medal.

In the way Nakamoto ran the race about which he had said, "I want to make it an exciting race myself," you could see the philosophy of life of this runner who bridged the gap from history to the modernity of Japanese men's marathoning. This year he is his corporate team's captain. On his profile on the team website he wrote, "This will be my 16th season, and I want to have more fun running than I ever have before." Kentaro Nakamoto seems like an athlete who can make that hope a reality.

source articles:
https://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nsp/item/n/603702/
translated and edited by Brett Larner

Buy Me A Coffee

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Hokkaido's Asahikawa Ryukoku H.S. Builds 330 m Greenhouse Indoor Track

Targeting its sixth-straight win at the Oct. 23 Hokkaido Prefecture High School Girls Ekiden, Asahikawa Ryukoku H.S. has complete construction of the Asahikawa Ryukoku Indoor Track, at 330 m in length the nation's largest running-specific circuit course entirelyely enclosed in vinyl greenhouse material. The ceremony marking the track's official completion is scheduled for Oct. 28th. In a part of the country known for heavy snowfall, the hope is that Asahikawa Ryukoku's new year-round training ground will help it make the jump to becoming a factor at the national level. The indoor track was built on the 1650 square meter campus of the former Asahikawa Toei H.S., where Asahikawa Ryukoku H.S. will relocate next summer. Coated in durable vinyl, the massive white torus of the track stands out from its surroundings. Ranging from 5.4 m to 7.2 m in width, the track's housing is wide enough to accommodate four lanes. In the future, two lanes will be covered with artificial turf

Kanazawa Marathon to Stop Runners at 21 Locations Due to Election

Due to be held the same day as voting in the upcoming election for the House of Representatives, runners at the Kanazawa Marathon can expect to be stopped at over 20 intersections on the course in order to allow voters on their way to the polls to pass without interference.  Scheduled to be held Oct. 31 after last year's race was canceled, the Kanazawa Marathon will take place while voting polls for the House of Representatives election are open. On race day, road closures for the marathon will be in place for up to 6 hours, but the locations of 14 polling stations on the course mean that voters will need to be able to cross through intersections. 50,000 voters are expected to use these locations, and while city officials are calling for people to utilize early voting or polling stations not affected by road closures then have made the decision to place security personnel at 21 intersections to stop runners when necessary. The Kanazawa Marathon already has this policy in place at

February's Ome 30 km Road Race Canceled Due to Pandemic

On Oct. 14 the organizers of Tokyo's Ome 30 km Road Race announced that the popular event's 55th running, scheduled for Feb. 20, 2022, will not go ahead and will instead be postponed a year. Organizers said that due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic they had concerns about being able to stage the event in a way safe for runners, local residents, race staff and volunteers. The Ome 30 km's 55th running was originally scheduled for February, 2021 but was postponed to 2022, meaning the new decision will in effect be a two-year postponement.  The Ome 30 km Road Race was founded in 1967. Starting in the western Tokyo suburb of Ome, the race follows a mountainous route along the upper Tama River gorge and back. Featuring both 30 km and 10 km races, the race seen wins from Olympic gold medalists like Naoko Takahashi  and Mizuki Noguchi , and is one of Japan's most popular races for amateur runners, with over 12,000 finishers every year. In place of the 2022 event, organizers