Veteran long-distance runner Kayoko Fukushi received the athlete of the year trophy and high school sensation Yoshihide Kiryu also grabbed the spotlight with two accolades at the annual JAAF Athletic Awards on Tuesday.
Fukushi, who nabbed the award for the first time, claimed a bonze medal in the women’s marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 21 seconds. It was Japan’s only medal at worlds.
“I didn’t expect that I’d compete this long when I joined the company (Wacoal Corporation),” the 31-year-old Fukushi said at the awards ceremony in Tokyo. “I certainly didn’t expect to win an award like this.”
The outspoken native of Aomori Prefecture smilingly said that she exhausted her motivation with the big feat in Russia in August. But she added that she has no intentions of calling it quits any time soon, knowing a big global sporting event will be held on home soil in seven years: the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I can go for it if I want,” said Fukushi, who also finished runner-up in 2:24:21 in January’s Osaka International Women’s Marathon. “At least I’m not going to say I will no longer do this.
“If not as an athlete, I still want to be associated with (the Olympics) somehow.”
The year-end Athletic Awards, hosted by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, began in 2007. Former Olympic hammer gold medalist Koji Murofushi won the athlete of the year honor the last two years. Fukushi was the third female athlete to win it, joining marathon runner Reiko Tosa (2007) and sprinter Chisato Fukushima (2010).
Meanwhile, for Japanese track and field, 2013 could not be discussed without mentioning Kiryu, who ascended to stardom after he ran 10.01 seconds in the men’s 100 meters at the Mikio Oda Memorial Meet in April.
The 18-year-old Kiryu, who was given the special award for societal contributions and the newcomer of the year award, appeared to be the main attraction of the ceremony and was surrounded by a large gathering of media members after it ended.
Men’s racewalker Takumi Saito and women’s 400-meter runner Haruka Sugiura were other newcomer of the year recipients.
“As I received these two awards, I feel like I’ve got to do even better next year so I’ll be able to contribute to the development of Japan track,” said Kiryu, who will attend Toyo University starting in April.
Asked what was the most memorable moment for himself in his remarkable year, Kiryu jokingly replied that he couldn’t pick just one because there were so many impressive competitions, including the Oda Memorial race that made him famous.
Kiryu didn’t become the first Japanese sprinter to ever run under 10 seconds in the 100 this year. But he said that his goal for 2014 would be to perform at a higher level more consistently.
“I’d like to run under 10.10 more often,” he said. “I’d like to show that I’m not just a one-hit wonder at the university.”
Kiryu added that, of course, he’d aim to run the 100 in under 10 seconds next year.
Awards were also presented to Ryoko Kizaki (women’s marathon), Hitomi Niiya (women’s 10,000 meters) and Seito Yamamoto (men’s pole vault).