Having retired after last December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Sasaki joined the staff at Asia, the 2006 Hakone champion, on Apr. 1 at the start of the academic year. After leaving the Asahi Kasei corporate team and relocating from its base in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Sasaki moved into the team dormitory on Apr. 2 to start living with the athletes. "There are a lot of student athletes here who are running very well, and the times they are chasing in training are high quality," he commented on his impressions of the current Asia team. "What's left is to think with the students about how to effectively bring their ability into play in races."
As a student at Daito Bunka University Sasaki ran the Hakone Ekiden all four years. After entering the corporate leagues he placed 16th in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic marathon and gained experience in ekidens and in marathons around the world, including a 2:08:56 best at the 2015 Fukuoka International Marathon and a 3rd-place finish at the 2019 Sydney Marathon in 2:11:02. "I hope that the students will see my experiences as one possible route, but that through discussions together they can come to understand the range of possibilities that exist and in so doing become stronger," he said of his hopes as a coach.
Like Sasaki a former Asahi Kasei runner, Nobuyuki Sato, the 1999 World Championships marathon bronze medalist and head coach at Asia since 2015, has high hopes for the new addition to his staff. "I hope that the students can absorb the strength of character of someone like Sasaki who performed well on the biggest stage at the Olympics," he said. "Together it is my hope that we can guide them to use the Hakone Ekiden as a springboard to become leaders of the Japanese athletics world."
translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo © 2019 Mika Tokairin, all rights reserved