Around 270 elementary and junior high school students got to meet American sprinter and Olympian Mike Rodgers on Sunday, when he coached a training event in Narita, Chiba Prefecture.

Rodgers, who participated in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as well as hurdler Sharika Nelvis and track coach Darryl Woodson, coached the students at Nakadai Sports Park in the city, which is set to host the United States national track and field team’s pre-Olympic training camp for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Though (we were) having language barriers, it was exciting to see kids enjoying themselves,” said Rodgers.

“Doing different drills is to get kids to utilize different functions of (their) bodies to realize their own hidden capabilities,” said Woodson. “Knowing that everyone has different concerns, abilities and goals, it is important to cater to individual needs to help each athlete realize their own vision.”

Kakeru, a sixth-grader and member of a track and field team who only gave his first name, said: “I will surely make full use of today’s training experience in the future.”

The lesson was also attended by four students from Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, an “Arigato” (“Thanks”) host town for American athletes under a government initiative designating municipalities in disaster-stricken Tohoku prefectures to host athletes participating in the 2020 Games, as a gesture of gratitude for supporting their recovery efforts.

Woodson said he hopes to also visit Ofunato in the future.

“Many people forget about the fact that we are actually ordinary people ourselves,” said Nelvis. “I would tell all the kids to just go for everything they have in mind — and they can do it.”

“Persistence and discipline are the keys to success,” Rodgers added. “But at the end of the day, the most important thing is to enjoy the process of improvement and growth.”

“If you are persistent, you will get it; if you are consistent, you will keep it,” noted Woodson. “I look forward to seeing you all becoming the persons you want to be — whether to be successful, professional, or just a good person.”

A similar event is scheduled to be held in Shizukuishi, Iwate Prefecture, on Wednesday, with Heinrich Popow, a German sprinter who won gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics.

The main purpose of the host town program is to promote educational and sports exchanges between local residents and visiting athletes and coaches, who will conduct workshops, give lectures and demonstrate their sports through friendly games.

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