Skip to main content

Karoki to Transfer Nationality to Japan (updated)

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Karoki and Seko backstage before the announcement.

In the wake of Monday's Japan Industrial Track and Field Association press conference formally announcing the corporate federation's new Project Exceed 100 million yen [~$1 million USD at normal exchange rates] bonus program for a new Japanese marathon national record in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the DeNA corporate team held a press conference Tuesday at the DeNA offices in Shibuya, Tokyo to announce that its star runner, 2015 World Cross Country Championships silver medalist Bedan Karoki, has filed the necessary paperwork to transfer his citizenship from Kenya to Japan.  "Please look kindly upon me as I strive to bring Japan gold," Karoki said.

Appearing at the press conference alongside Karoki were DeNA CEO Isao Moriyasu, executive head coach Toshihiko Seko and assistant coach Tomoaki Kunichika.  Moriyasu told members of the media, "Karoki has lived in Japan for nearly ten years, graduated from a Japanese high school, recently passed the highest level of the JLPT Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and is a productive member of our team, company and society.  A large part of DeNA's innovative workforce is made up of talented, hardworking immigrants, people who now make up a significant percentage of Japanese society.  It is time that we rethink what it means to be Japanese.  DeNA prides itself on its forward thinking and cutting edge innovation and we are likewise proud to take this step and welcome Karoki as one of our own."

Seko commented, "There is a great deal of talk that we need to look to what the U.S.A. is doing right in order to win medals.  Most of their best athletes are immigrants, and their success has motivated their best native-born athletes to try harder.  Looking at that example it's easy to see that the time is right to take this step.  Karoki is the most talented athlete I have ever coached.  I hope that he will be able to achieve what neither I nor any of the others I have coached were able to do and win an Olympic marathon medal for Japan."

Kunichika discussed Karoki's development plan, saying, "The ultimate goal will be a gold medal in the marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  If his citizenship is processed in time for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics the focus there will be on the 5000 m and 10000 m, but in any case before moving to the marathon he will work to deliver Japan's first-ever sub-13 5000 m, sub-27 10000 m and sub-hour half marathon.  We hope that other Japanese athletes will be inspired to follow his lead."

Although he will not change his name, as part of his transfer of citizenship Karoki will take a kanji reading of his birth name.  "His family name will become 黒木  [Kuroki, black tree]," revealed Seko.  "In light of his good looks we considered 美男 [Binan, handsome man] for his given name, but instead chose 美談 [Bidan, beautiful story] as we hope that by the time his story is finished it will indeed be a beautiful one."  Former Yamanashi Gakuin University star Stephen Mayaka took Japanese citizenship following his retirement, but Karoki is believed to be the first Kenyan to transfer nationality to Japan while at the height of his career.  2013 Fukuoka International Marathon winner and Osaka World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) is also reported to be in the process of transferring his citizenship to Japan and will take the name 鈴木マサシ [Masashi Suzuki].

Update: This was an April Fool's Day story.  Neither Karoki nor Mathathi have officially announced plans to become Japanese citizens.


Anonymous said…
Nice! I was going to email some friends to verify....


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

1500 m Olympian Assefa Wins Nagoya, 22-Year-Old Sekine 2:23:07 Debut

Two-time 1500 m Olympian Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia) ran down favorite Valary Jemeli (Kenya) with 4 km to go to win the 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon, with the home town crowd wowed by the debut of the latest next big thing, 22-year-old Hanami Sekine (Japan Post).

Supported by three pacers, a lead pack of seven including Assefa, Jemeli, Sekine, Ethiopian Bahraini Merima Mohamed, Saitama International Marathon winner Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) and top-ranked Japanese women Reia Iwade (Dome) and Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) went through halfway in a decent 1:11:32. This proved too hot for a few of the past next big things to have run well in Nagoya the last few years, as Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu), 2:22:48 in Nagoya three years ago, and Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2:23:47 last year, were off the back of the pack in the first 10 km.

By 25 km Cheyech, Ohara and Iwade joined them off the back, leaving only Sekine in contention with the African trio of Jemeli, Assefa and Mohammed. Sekine, a…