While offering words of congratulations on the nomination of former Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto (KGRR) director Yoshiyuki Aoba, 77, to the head coach position at Nihon University, Susumu Hara, 53, head coach of 2020 Hakone Ekiden winner Aoyama Gakuin University, voiced caution about the potential for Aoba to wield too much influence.
The move by Nihon University, which finished 18th at Hakone this year, came as a surprise to the university men's ekiden scene, replacing retiring coach Yoshiyuki Musha, 36, with the 77-year-old veteran and Nihon alumnus Aoba who had led Daito Bunka University to four Hakone titles in younger days. Aoba hasn't coached since he left Daito Bunka in 2000 to take up the position of KGRR director.
Currently the core figure in the university ekiden world, in a telephone interview Hara reacted with surprise to the news of Aoba's return. "To begin with, I would like to congratulate Coach Aoba on his return to the scene," said Hara. "I think it's a great thing that he still has the drive at 77 to get back into the battle."
But at the same time, Hara didn't hold back in voicing concern over someone as influential as the former director of the KGRR, organizers of the Hakone Ekiden, returning to coach one of the universities competing in the event. "With his inside experience at the top of the organization, Coach Aoba holds a great deal of influence," Hara said. "Particularly at a difficult time like this, when this summer's National High School Track and Field Championships have been canceled and collegiate sports and cultural events face restrictions, I hope that Coach Aoba will stay close to the students and, when necessary, fight on their side against the system. If he is on the side of the system instead standing with the students then his old ways of thinking will only be doing harm."
translated by Brett Larner