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Japanese Long Distance Reacts to Tokyo 2020 Postponement

Following the announcement of the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to 2021, the athletes already named to the women's and men's marathon teams are expected to retain their positions as national representatives at the Olympics.

A day after the Olympic announcement, JAAF marathon development project leader Toshihiko Seko confirmed that the project team is thinking in that direction. "I want to protect the rights of the six athletes already on the team," he said. "Their places on the team are something they earned themselves through a three-year process. We do not intend to take that away. This morning one of their coaches called me and asked, 'What's going to happen to my athlete?' All of them are worried that their places on the Olympic team will be annulled. I can tell them that thanks to the MGC process we have confidence in them as our national representatives. The final word, however, is that of the JAAF board of directors."

Other members of the marathon development project echoed Seko's sentiments. Tadasu Kawano commented, "The athletes who earned their places through the rules of the system should be respected and their rights maintained. Even in these circumstances, I don't think any athletes who didn't make the team would say, 'That's not right.' The team members have an extra year to develop and further close the gap between them and the rest of the world. In that way they can become more capable athletes in 2021."

JAAF executive Kazunori Asaba agreed with regard to the team members retaining their places, saying, "I personally feel that their right to represent the country cannot be invalidated." JAAF and JOC executive Mitsugi Ogata was pragmatic, commenting, "We'll need to confirm the period of validity for their qualifying times and examine our selection criteria as appropriate, but I don't think anyone doubts that these athletes are good enough to perform up to ability next year. We'll need to decide on a specific course of action as soon as possible, but I'm not particularly worried." The JAAF plans to meet to discuss the issue and arrive at a consensus.

Some members of the Olympic marathon teams released statements to the media about the Olympic postponement. Women's MGC Olympic trials race winner Honami Maeda (23, Tenmaya), who in February broke marathon national record holder and Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi's 30 km national record, commented, "We're viewing this as getting an extra year of development and strengthening and will use it to continue making progress in training."

Women's trials runner-up Ayuko Suzuki (28, Japan Post) said, "The 2020 Tokyo Olympics may have been officially postponed, but nothing has changed in my drive to be ready to run my best no matter what the circumstances. I think it is vitally important that the entire world overcomes the coronavirus and then comes together to celebrate the Olympics as a symbol of peace. I sincerely hope that day will come soon." Suzuki's coach Masahiko Takahashi commented, "Given the spread of the coronavirus worldwide I think the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was unavoidable. As with the shift of the marathon venue to Sapporo last fall, we will take this change into account and make the necessary adjustments as athlete support staff to ensure a successful race in a year's time."

Men's MGC Olympic trials runner-up Yuma Hattori (25, Toyota), said, "In a world facing a very serious situation as a result of the novel coronavirus, I'm grateful to be given this opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage. Until that day comes I'll continue to prepare to deliver my absolute best. I hope that the coronavirus problem comes to an end as soon as possible." His coach Toshinobu Sato said, "As the coronavirus continues to spread, we are grateful that the decision to cancel the Olympics was not made. As we have up to this point, we will continue to strive to ensure that Hattori arrives at the Olympics in the best condition possible. I pray that the virus' spread ends soon."

2019 Doha World Championships men's 50 km race walk gold medalist Yusuke Suzuki (Fujitsu) also released a statement via his corporate sponsor. "To start with," he said, "I'm thankful that they decided to postpone the Olympics instead of canceling them. Since we've invested so much in planning for 2020 I was still hoping that they would happen this year, but I understand that this was not possible. In any case, I'll do what's necessary to prepare and compete the best way I can." His coach Fumio Imamura commented, "If the Olympics are held by the summer of 2021, personally I don't think it will be an issue to maintain his fitness until then."

6th in the women's 20 km race walk in Doha and already holding a spot on the Tokyo team, Kumiko Okada (28, Bic Camera) said, "I try not to get stressed by all the talk on TV. I'll do my best. I just have to focus on that. If it's going to be another year, I just feel like, 'Let's do it.' There's no problem at all with tweaking the plan." Laughing, she added, "I had to do that when they moved the race, but I didn't think that the date would move too!"

Along with the Olympics, the Tokyo Paralympics will also be delayed by one year. Earlier this year Rio Olympics vision-impaired marathon silver medalist Misato Michishita (43, Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) broke her own world record by 1:52 with a 2:54:22 for the win at the Beppu-Oita Marathon, positioning herself as the favorite for the gold medal in Tokyo. "Athletes can only do the things that they have set their minds to," she said. "This is life intervening, and there's nothing you can do about that." In a year she will be 44. "At this point the consequences of just walking away have disappeared. Younger athletes have come in and the level keeps going up."

source articles:
https://www.nikkansports.com/olympic/tokyo2020/athletics/news/202003250000478.html
https://hochi.news/articles/20200325-OHT1T50153.html
https://hochi.news/articles/20200325-OHT1T50166.html
https://hochi.news/articles/20200325-OHT1T50127.html
https://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nsp/item/n/594779/
https://www.jiji.com/jc/article?k=2020032401375&g=spo
https://www.nikkansports.com/olympic/tokyo2020/athletics/news/202003250000081.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

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