On New Year's Day, I was in Gunma Prefecture to cheer our athletics club at the New Year Ekiden. This was the first New Year Ekiden held since I assumed the presidency. I went to Gunma on the day before the event. Last November, when I went rooting for them at the Kansai Corporate Team Ekiden Championship, the preliminary race for the New Year Ekiden, our team secured a place in the New Year's race. This made me so excited that on the following day I promptly booked a hotel room for the night before the race.
Our team finished the New Year Ekiden in 11th place, much higher than the team's original target. I was incredibly impressed. I guess I heard before the race that the team was striving to secure a place above 20th, higher than its best record ever of 25th. After the first leg, however, the target was raised to 15th. The team might have presented me with a more modest target! Anyway, the final result was 11th, which surpassed even the upward revised target.
The runner in the first leg was Hyuga Endo. He stayed in the front of the lead pack in the first half of the leg and frequently appeared on TV with our company name on, making us excited and proud. Surprisingly, he continued staying in the lead pack, put on a final spurt, and incredibly, passed on the team's sash in first place. I was too excited to keep myself from yelling out. Of course, I had placed a lot of expectations on him, but I was impressed that the high-school-graduate rookie had distinguished himself among the high-level runners of corporate athletics teams.
In the second leg, for which registration of foreign runners was allowed, our team dropped down to 22nd place, but Tetsuya Kimura did not give up on his leg. In and after the third leg, Koki Takada, Kazuki Muramoto, Takuma Kumagai, Kazuma Ito, and Yukio Fujimura all exhibited wonderful performances that improved the team's ranking in each leg. Honestly speaking, this performance was somehow far beyond my expectation. I feel that Mr. Endo generated a good momentum and all the other members maintained it until the last moment by demonstrating their full capacity. This was the result of the daily efforts made by all the members of our athletics club, including those who could not compete in this year's race. I would like to express my congratulations and appreciation to these members, as well as the coach, managers, support staff members, and coworkers who supported them.
When Mr. Fujimura, the final runner of our team, caught up with the group of runners competing for the sixth place in the seventh leg right before the finish of the race, I had a fleeting dream of seeing him finish within the top eight, but in reality, this was not so easy to achieve. Although it would be uneasy to achieve a favorable result all the time, I hope that our athletics club will continue to train hard toward the target of surpassing this year's position. I look forward to seeing all the members achieve outstanding growth.
I'm happy that I was able to see such an excellent performance at the beginning of the New Year. I would like to express my appreciation to those who supported our team in the middle of the New Year holidays.
Taking advantage of this momentum, we will do our best toward striving for business prosperity in 2018. In this regard, together with our athletics club, we would like to ask for your support and encouragement.