translated and edited by Brett Larner
videos by Ryosuke Furuya
On June 6 the athletics world's #1 amateur runner, Yuki Kawauchi (28, Saitama Pref. Gov't), won the 5000 m title at the 70th Saitama Prefecture Track and Field Championships at Kumagaya Sports Park Field, running 14:52.62 before doubling back to finish 8th in 4:03.05 in the 1500 m, an event he won last year. In interviews after the race he weighed in on the JAAF's statement late last month that it was eliminating the preference given to members of its year-old National Team marathon development program in the selection process for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team.
There has been no communication about the significant change in policy from the Federation to the athletes currently in the National Team program. "I read about it in the news," said Kawauchi, who excelled last year as a National Team member, winning the bronze medal in last October's Asian Games marathon, one of only two of the program's twelve inaugural members to have broken 2:10 since its launch at the start of the last fiscal year in April, 2014 and the only one to have done it twice or to do it outside Japan. This year he again has an excellent chance of being named to the National Team, the lineup of which has yet to be announced over two months into the new fiscal year, but, he commented with genuine sadness, "What can you say about people who keep changing their stance? I guess I can understand it if their plan is to just throw Rio and put everything into the Tokyo Olympics."
Analyzing the implications of JAAF Vice-Chairman of Development and National Team program co-head Katsumi Sakai's May 27 statement about the policy change Kawauchi said, "If there's no preferential treatment given to people on the team then I think many of them will quit. A lot of corporate runners probably want to go do altitude training in St. Moritz or Boulder or wherever instead of the National Team's required domestic training camps, and in my case I can't set up my own training getaways if I have to go to the National Team training camps. There won't be any reason for anyone to want to force themselves to be on the National Team no matter what."