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Rio Olympian Kitajima Retires from Yasukawa Denki as London Olympian Nakamoto Becomes Head Coach

The Yasukawa Denki men's corporate team has announced that four of its members including 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics marathoner Hisanori Kitajima, 38, are retiring. Kitajima won the Hakone Ekiden's Eighth Stage his fourth year at Toyo University. He finished 2nd as the top Japanese man at the 2016 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon to qualify for the Rio Olympics, where he placed 94th.

In comments Kitajima said, "The last few years I've felt my body deteriorating day by day, and it was frustrating not to be able to do the kind of training and aggressive racing I used to. But that made me change the way I approached racing, and to approach it with more thought and craft. I learned new things and changed my way of thinking, and as I got older I found a new kind of enjoyment and satisfaction in racing. Part of that was being called a veteran, which felt like some kind of persona. It made me want to compete with the 'veterans' from other teams, and that came to be a motivation of its own. I couldn't think of any reason I'd want to retire from that.

But this season I've felt a kind of pressure from seeing how well some of the other veterans on other teams are still doing at this age. When I started to feel like I couldn't compete with them any more, I began to feel like maybe it was time to retire. I decided that the 2023 New Year Ekiden would be the end of the road. Unfortunately I didn't make the starting team, but even so I still feel like I've accomplished what I set out to do. 

I was able to come this far because a lot of people gave me their support. It was very rewarding. I had a sense of purpose as an athlete right up to the very end, and it let me have a truly fulfilling life as an athlete. I thank you all. I hope you'll all keep supporting the Yasukawa Denki Team."

The same day, Yasukawa Denki also announced that 2012 London Olympics 6th placer Kentaro Nakamoto, 40, has been named its new head coach. Previous head coach Naoki Yamagashira will move into a management role with the team. A native of Yamaguchi prefecture, Nakamoto joined Yasukawa Denki in 2005 after graduating from Takushoku University. He never had much distinction as an ekiden or track runner, but starting with his 3rd place finish at the 2008 Nobeoka Nishi Nihon Marathon he showed his true colors in the marathon.

Nakamoto made three World Championships teams in the marathon, finishing in the top 10 each time capped by a 5th-place finish at the 2013 Moscow World Championships. At the 2012 London Olympics he ran a memorably strong race to finish 6th. In 2017 he won the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon at age 34. At the 2019 MGC Race Olympic marathon trials Nakamoto placed 8th at the age of 36. After retiring in 2021 he joined the Yasukawa Denki coaching staff.

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translated and edited by Brett Larner

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