On Nov. 2 the management of the Kyudenko corporate men's team announced that Kazuma Kubota, 27, quit the team on Oct. 31 to devote himself to working for the Kyudenko corporation. The announcement effectively represented an announcement of Kubota's retirement.
Kubota graduated from the national-level Kyushu Gakuin H.S. in 2012 and entered Aoyama Gakuin University. The same year, he won the most competitive stage at the Izumo Ekiden as a 1st-year, securing Aoyama Gakuin its first-ever win at one of the Big Three University Ekidens. At the 2015 Hakone Ekiden his third year, Kubota had a memorably intense First Stage duel with Komazawa University's future Tokyo Olympics marathon trials winner Shogo Nakamura, losing to Nakamura by just 1 second. But Aoyama Gakuin rode the momentum that Kubota had generated, going on to win Hakone for the first time.
During his senior year in the 2015-16 season he won his stage at all three university ekidens. At Hakone Ekiden he won the First Stage. Following his lead Aoyama Gakuin occupied the top spot the entire way to the finish for its second-straight Hakone title. Kubota was awarded Hakone's Shizo Kanakuri Memorial MVP award for his role in setting Aoyama Gakuin on the road to victory. Along with Asian marathon champion Daichi Kamino (27, Cell Source) and half marathon national record holder Yusuke Ogura (27, Yakult), he is credited as being one of the principal architects of Aoyama Gakuin's transformation from underdog to the dominant force in the university ekiden world.
Kubota joined the Kyudenko team after his graduation in 2016. Suffering serial injuries he was never able to perform at the same level again, but his name remained popular and respected among fans who remembered what he had done at Aoyama Gakuin. On the Kyudenko team web site Kubota wrote, "I've been a part of this team for four and a half years, and I'm sorry that I've never been able to run an ekiden for it or make any contribution to the team's success. But from the heart, I'll always be grateful to everyone who was still there for me. Thank you, truly. I hope that I can pay back your support in my future work for the company."
Translator's note: Shortly after Aoyama Gakuin's 2016 Hakone win, a female fan claimed that Kubota had assaulted her at her home. Amid the claims he was absent from AGU's victory parade, but as police investigated it was unclear whether the alleged events had actually happened as described or whether Kubota was being targeted by a stalker. The events came in the context of head coach Susumu Hara's initial push to start having himself and his college-aged athletes appear on TV on comedy and variety shows as much as possible to boost their name value, the AGU brand, and the popularity of the scene with the general public.
As the police investigation was happening Kubota joined Kyudenko, but as it dragged on into 2017 he never competed. In July, 2017 police sent their case to the prosecutor's office, but while the case seemed to fizzle out after that and he did not seem to have been charged Kubota never recovered to get back to where he had been.
translated by Brett Larner