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Sawaki to Head New 'Long Distance and Road Racing' Rikuren Division

published in the Nikkei Newspaper, 11/20/08

translated by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner

Rikuren [JAAF] announced today that it has created a new 'Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee' to separate oversight of Japanese long distance and marathon runners from other track and field events in an effort to strengthen Japanese distance running. The new division is to be headed by Rikuren executive board member Keisuke Sawaki. The committee responsible for sprints and field events will be headed by current Rikuren track and field director Susumu Takano.

The final decision on creating the new division was made by Rikuren executive director Yohei Kono. "It was extremely embarrassing to see the result of the Beijing Olympic marathons," commented Kono. "Considering the size of our organization some might think setting up this new committee might be outrageous and too specific to one event, but our feeling is that this is necessary to deal with the current crisis."

In March, 2007, Sawaki was promoted from Track and Field director to Rikuren's executive board. Takano was brought in as Sawaki's replacement, but since then Japan performed poorly in both the World Championships and Olympics. Rikuren was asked to review its system. Takano, a former 100 m Olympic sprinter, commented, "If they want quick results, not something which is going to bear fruit five or ten years from now, then they should let me focus on my field of expertise." Kono commented, "To rebuild Japan's marathoning organization, Sawaki, a specialist in distance running, will be directly in charge."

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