On October 20, the Sumitomo Athletics Festa was held at the Sumitomo Multi-Purpose Sports Field in Itami, Hyogo. The event started last year, and this year again was attended by many star athletes in Japan including Ms. Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal Corp.), Mr. Masashi Eriguchi (Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.), Mr. Yuzo Kanemaru (Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.) and Ms. Hitomi Shimura (Saga Athletics Association).
The event consisted of two parts. In the morning, an athletics workshop was held with a attendance of 200 local students. Due to the bad weather condition, the workshop was held in a gym. Mr. Jun Osakada (Osaka Gas) coached elementary school students, while Mr. Hiroki Fujikawa (Sonoda Women's University Track and Field Club) trained junior high school students.
When Mr. Osakada was a student, he had a classmate who ran faster than he. To beat his friend, he trained hard and eventually he got selected as an Olympic runner. Listening to this story from Mr. Osakada in person made the children so excited and motivated.
I hope that many of the students who attended this workshop now find athletics interesting and begin practicing with utmost effort.
In the afternoon, although it was still raining, a meet was held for athletes to challenge the Japanese records. At the reception party held the day before I had encouraged them to be relaxed and enjoy the event but at the start of the meet, everyone seemed to be nervous.
One of the highlights was the men’s 60 m sprint. It is seldom held and the Japanese record (6"69s) has not been broken for thirty years, so naturally expectations were high for a new record. No sooner than I heard the starter pistol, Mr. Eriguchi, who promised me to do his best under any condition, reached the finish line. The electric scoreboard displayed 6"57s and the spectators applauded with excitement. However, the tailwind measured was 2.1 m/s, and his record was not officially recognized. (The maximum tail wind eligible for an official record is under 2.0 m/s.) Although it was disappointing, it was not something we can change.
Receiving huge encouragement from the locals, our athletics club members also did a great job with three winners including Mr. Hiroshi Dote, who won the close race of the 100 m, and Mr. Kensuke Takezawa, who showed off his astonishing performance in the 5000 m.
Partly because of the cold rain, new records were not set. However, I believe that the spectators enjoyed competitive games by Japan’s top athletes with an unexpected result for Japan’s major runner Ms. Fukushi to have come in 4th in the 5000 m.
Of all the programs, the most popular games were actually the 3000 m sprint by junior high school students. Cheers from classmates, teachers and families never stopped until the last runner finished his race.
Despite the poor weather conditions, the event was a success again this year. I would like to thank everyone, particularly the athletes who did their best, the Kansai Industrial Track and Field Association and the other staff members who organized the event, and the people who gave warm cheers to the athletes.
We will continue to develop this pleasing event for us to share the joy of athletics with local people.