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Asahara awaits final race of track career

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Hammer thrower Koji Murofushi, 400-meter hurdler Kenji Narisako and women’s long jumper Kumiko Ikeda are among the well-known Japanese Olympics who will compete in the 2008 Seiko Super Track and Field Meet on Sept. 23.

But the biggest attraction will be 100-meter veteran Nobuharu Asahara.

The Kobe native, a four-time Olympian, will appear in his final career race in the meet, competing with the other three members that together won the bronze medal in the men’s 4×100 relay in Beijing. The quartet, which also included Naoki Tsukuhara, Shingo Suetsugu and Shinji Takahira, picked up Japan’s first Olympic track medal in 80 years.

“I’ve said I’d quit a few times, but it’s really time for me to do so,” said Asahara, who made his Olympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. “I’ve been quite busy after the Olympics and don’t have time to be sentimental about my last run.

“I’m training well for the 23rd, and if I don’t run well that day, I’ll be leaving (the field) with regret. So I’d like to come in in a perfect shape,” he added at a news conference at Kishi Memorial Hall in Tokyo on Friday.

In addition, 33 foreign invitees, including 26 Beijing Olympians (six medalists), are scheduled to participate in the meet. Among the notable foreign athletes are Cuba’s Dayron Robles, the men’s 110-meter hurdles world record-holder and 2008 Olympic champion, and hammer thrower Primoz Kosmuz of Slovenia, who also won a gold medal in China.

For Asahara, this meet will provide him with a chance to make a final, lasting impression in his homeland.

Yet when he was asked if he will try to run the race in less than 10 seconds, Asahara bluntly said that it’s not something he is crazy about.

“I think I have a chance (to do it),” said the Kobe native, whose personal best (10.02) is second on Japan’s all-time list behind Koji Ito’s 10.00.

“It’s just like, if I clock in the 9s and quit, maybe I’d look cool, though. I don’t particularly have a deep emotion about it.”

The Super Track and Field Meet, which started in 1988, has been held at International Stadium Yokohama (now known as Nissan Stadium) for the last eight years.