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World Championships Medalist Racewalking Coach Mizuho Sakai Recognized With Highest Coaching Honor

The 2023 Mizuno Sports Mentor Awards recognizing excellence in coaching were held Apr. 23 in Tokyo. Toyo University assistant coach and race walking coach Mizuho Sakai was given a gold award, the program's highest honor, and expressed her thanks and joy in a speech at the award ceremony. The coach of 2023 Budapest World Championships men's 35 km race walk bronze medalist Masatora Kawano, Sakai said, "This is an incredible honor and I'm truly grateful. As a child I wanted to be in the sporting world and I've spent my life in that world. My end goal was always to play a supporting role for other athletes, so I'm honored to be recognized in this way."

Sakai's husband Toshiyuki Sakai, head coach of Toyo's three-time Hakone Ekiden champion team, attended the awards gala with her and was also introduced to the audience. After bowing he took a seat in front of her and watched with warmth as she received recognition for her outstanding work.

The Mizuno Sports Mentor Awards were established in 1990 by the Mizuno Sports Foundation in partnership with the Japan Sports Association and the Japanese Olympic Committee. The awards are presented to coaches who have made significant contributions to the development of competitive sports and the promotion of local sport. Sports Agency commissioner Koji Murofushi, who attended the event's press conference, was full of praise for Sakai, commenting, "This is the first time an athletics coach has received a gold award since my father (Shigenobu Murofushi) in 2011. Sorry, that was in my script...."

Silver award winners included national fencing team head coach Franck Boidin, Takatsu Sports Club SELF chair Tadashi Kikuchi, and wheelchair basketball coach Kazuyuki Kyotani. Also receiving awards were Daisuke Ishida, coach of women's table tennis placer Hina Hayata, artistic swimming head coach Takako Nakajima, and women's judo national coach June Ueno.

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