translated and edited by Brett Larner
The Sumitomo Denko corporate men's team announced on Jan. 16 that Kensuke Takezawa, 30, a 2008 Beijing Olympian in the 5000 m and 10000 m, has made the decision to retire from competition. Via a statement from the company Takezawa said, "I will retire from active competition at the end of this season. The last few years I haven't been able to produce good results, but the strong, heartfelt support and encouragement I've received from everyone has made it possible to keep going this long. I sincerely thank you all. Please continue to cheer on the Sumitomo Denko team."
Takezawa graduated from Hyogo's Hotoku Gakuen H.S. before going to Waseda University, where he set the still-standing collegiate 5000 m record of 13:19.00 and as a fourth-year in 2009 broke the Hakone Ekiden Third Stage record despite an injury to his left Achilles to lead Waseda to an overall 2nd-place finish. He became the first active Hakone runner to make an Olympic team in 44 years when he ran in Beijing. After graduating he joined the Toshihiko Seko-led S&B corporate team, leaving the team in 2013 to join Sumitomo Denko and leading it to its first New Year Ekiden appearance in 2014. In 2015 his Waseda-era coach Yasuyuki Watanabe left Waseda to take over at Sumitomo Denko. Their reunion raising hopes that great things were on the way again, but a long-lasting injury to his left Achilles tendon and other injuries cut short his career.
Translator's note: Along with his high school and university rival Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Takezawa was a major Hakone star and true track talent with Galen Rupp or Dathan Ritzenhein-level ability. Always plagued by injury, his achievements on the track included:
- 13:22.36 for 5000 m at age 19
- the 13:19.00 collegiate 5000 m national record at age 20
- 27:45.59 for 10000 m at age 20
- running the 1000 m at the 2007 Osaka World Championships at age 20
- running the 5000 m and 10000 m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at age 21
- 7:49.26 for 3000 m at age 22
- winning the 10000 m national title at age 23
Despite his popularity and his stunning Hakone Ekiden Third Stage course record, 1:01:40 for 21.5 km equating to 1:00:31 for the half marathon, Takezawa was under-appreciated as a talent on the roads, where his achievements included:
- stage wins at major ekidens like the National University Ekiden, International Chiba Ekiden and National Men's Ekiden over an 8-year span from 2007 to 2015
- a 1:02:27 win at the 2005 Ageo City Half Marathon as a 19-year-old first-year at Waseda
- 1:02:26 for 3rd three months later at the Marugame Half Marathon
- a win at the 2010 Himejijo 10-Miler at age 23
- a win at the 2013 Kumamoto Kosa 10-Mier at age 27
Although time has gone by fans still held out hope that some day Takezawa would somehow return to his past self, and judging from the reaction on Twitter his retirement is deeply felt across the country. The fact that neither he nor Sato followed a career trajectory anything remotely close to Rupp's or Ritz's is as strong an indication of the problems with the Japanese corporate system as you could ask for. Takezawa will be missed.