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Daiso Women's Ekiden Team Ready to Go in Second Season

Sponsored by 100 yen shop chain Daiso Sangyo, in its second season the Hiroshima-based Daiso women's ekiden team has added four new members this season to bring its roster to eight athletes. The team has cleared the minimum number needed to enter the corporate ekiden championships, six, and is ready to go. Despite their training opportunities being limited, with intensive training camps canceled and other restrictions in place, the team members are doing the work needed for the team to make the big jump in its second season.

The Daiso team was founded in April last year under the leadership of Shinya Iwamoto, 54, who lead Sera H.S. to five boys' and one girls' National High School Ekiden Championships titles. The team began with five athletes and from the start was outfitted with a team dormitory featuring the latest training equipment. One of the initial members unfortunately had to leave the team due to illness. But as a new team it hasn't been easy to make quick progress. "Since we had few athletes, the number of competitions we could enter was limited," said Iwamoto. "Without a main target race for the team it was hard to build motivation among the athletes."

With four new team members coming on board this season, Daiso was finally in a position to be an ekiden team. But the coronavirus crisis forced the team to cancel planned training camps in Kochi, Hofu and Dogoyama. Instead, they've been training on the Sera H.S. track and along the Sera and Ashida rivers, all while taking adequate precautions against the spread of the disease.

All the team's members joined straight out of high school, and all are full-time employees of Daiso Sangyo, working two mornings a week at the company's headquarters and at local retail outlets. Iwamoto's intent is to carefully develop them over the course of the next four or five years. "They coach actually use stricter coaching, but things aren't to that level yet," said Iwamoto. "The athletes who joined us this spring in particular are still at the stage of getting used to the changes in their work, training and living situations. I don't want to rush things and have them get injured. We have to take a long view of the situation."

At the team's inaugural meeting Iwamoto set its goals as running the Princess Ekiden, the qualifying race for the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships, in its third season, qualifying for Nationals in its fifth season, and winning Nationals in its tenth season. With eight members the team is now able to enter the Princess Ekiden, but Iwamoto remains cautious. "Ekidens aren't that easy," he said. "It's simple just to run it, but if we came last it wouldn't mean anything."

But despite their coach's reservations, the athletes are raring to go. "I want to race as soon as we can," said team captain Koto Hiramura, 20. "I want us to train hard and see how we stack up against the competition." All the athletes live together in the team dormitory, and love talking to each other. "Whatever we talk about, it's always a great time," said Hiramura, showing how good the team spirit already is.

The team will actively participate in local community events and hopes to become the pride of the people of Hiroshima. As a team they've just begun, but the road to #1 in Japan stretches wide open before them.

source article:
translated by Brett Larner

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