translated by Brett Larner
Citing a decline in the strength of the business environment, the Oki electronics company announced on Feb. 25 that effective Mar. 31 it is eliminating its running team, known as one of the strongest professional women's squads. The team currently includes six athletes along with a support staff of eleven. Oki has pledged to assist its runners with finding positions in other teams and to provide jobs within the company for those athletes who may wish to remain as ordinary workers. The company's public relations office issued a statement saying, "We genuinely regret the necessity of taking this step. We offer our most sincere apologies to team members whose activities we have supported until now and thank them for all their efforts."
The Miyazaki-based Team Oki was founded in 1986. In 1988 Hidekoku Hiroshima, the man who developed the Soh brothers Shigeru and Takashi into legendary marathoners, became head coach. Hiroshima transformed the team into a powerhouse, scoring National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championship wins in 1996, 1997 and 1999. In 2002 men's marathon great Hiromi Taniguchi, now head coach of Team Tokyo Denryoku, took over Team Oki's leadership. Current head coach Yasunori Niihara took over in 2008 following Taniguchi's departure. The team's top runners are the identical twin Miyauchi sisters, Olympic A-standard 10000 m runners. Past members have included Atlanta and Sydney Olympics 10000 m runner Yuko Kawakami.