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Backlash Over Harsh COVID-19 Policy for Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

On Sept. 24 the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto (KGRR) published a set of anti-coronavirus policies and guidelines for universities planning to compete in the Oct. 17 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai half marathon, the qualifying race for January's Hakone Ekiden. The guidelines have sparked an outcry of protest over their harshness.

The document states that if anyone involved with a team on a day-to-day basis, whether an athlete, head coach, assistant coach or anyone else, tests positive for the coronavirus in a PCR test taken on or after Sept. 26 during the three weeks prior to the race, the entire team will not be allowed to compete under any circumstances. If anyone in a team's larger circle of regular contacts test positive on or after Oct. 3, the team will likewise be barred from competing.

On his personal Twitter feed, Juntendo University head coach and JAAF development committee director Kazuhiko Yamazaki wrote about the problems with the policy, saying, "These conditions read like a threat. Rules like this will lead to someone committing suicide. People should follow medical professionals' advice and observe a period of self-isolation [if they test positive]. Draconian rules like this that take a toll on students' emotional well-being need to be rewritten immediately!"

Yamazaki later deleted the tweets, but other Twitter voices joined him in voicing concern, saying, "Where is the need to go this far?" and, "Anyone who tests positive is going to get treated like a criminal."

In normal years the Yosenkai starts at the Tachikawa Air SDF Base, heading out onto the streets of Tachikawa before finishing inside Showa Kinen Park. This year, due to the coronavirus crisis, it will be closed to the public and run on a loop course around the runway at the Air SDF Base. Each team's ten fastest runners over the half marathon distance are scored, with the top ten placing teams going on to Hakone, Japan's biggest sporting event.

Translator's note: The Yosenkai is extremely high-stakes, with universities on the cusp of qualifying planning for years on how to bridge the gap even just once. Watch the reactions during the announcement ceremony, especially down around the 10th/11th-place line, if you have any doubts about Yamazaki's concerns over the potential mental and emotional consequences for a runner if they were to test positive for COVID-19 and get their entire team barred.



source article:
https://www.daily.co.jp/general/2020/09/25/0013728541.shtml
translated and edited by Brett Larner

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Comments

Andrew Armiger said…
Is this subtext on the unknown cost of placing such outsized importance in these competitions?
Brett Larner said…
An excellent question.

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