Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi said Thursday she will leave the Sekisui Chemical athletics team and continue to train with her longtime coach Yoshio Koide.

Takahashi will quit Sekisui Chemical at the end of February and move to Sakura Athlete Club, which was founded by Koide two years ago in Chiba Prefecture, with a plan to look for a personal sponsorship deal.

“I had been wondering if I should stay with the team or follow the coach since he announced his decision to leave Sekisui Chemical (in December),” Takahashi said. “But I want to run in the Olympics in Athens and in order to achieve that goal I think I still need to be coached by Mr. Koide — my mentor since I was with the Recruit team.”

Takahashi accompanied Koide and switched teams when the coach moved from the Recruit athletics team to Sekisui Chemical in 1997, before the diminutive runner sprang to prominence in the women’s marathon and won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

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