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Renowned running coach Yoshio Koide dead at 80

Long-distance running coach Yoshio Koide, who helped Japan become a powerhouse in women’s marathon in the 1990s and 2000s, died Wednesday, sources close to him said. He was 80.

Known for his lively personality, Koide coached Naoko Takahashi to Japan’s first Olympic women’s marathon gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games. Her winning time of 2 hours, 23 minutes and 14 seconds stood as an Olympic record for 12 years.

A former schoolteacher in his native Chiba Prefecture, Koide was often seen vigorously cheering on his athletes from the sidelines of the marathon course.

He guided Yuko Arimori to a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and bronze four years later at the Atlanta Games.

Rarely seen without his trademark tinted glasses, Koide maintained an unconventionally collegial relationship with his athletes.

Describing the dynamic between himself and Arimori, he once said, “(She) is the teacher and I am the student.”

An unabashed beer lover, Koide famously offered a can of the beverage to a reporter while being interviewed following Takahashi’s Japan record-breaking victory at the 1998 Nagoya International Women’s Marathon.

Takahashi paid tribute to her former coach on Wednesday, crediting him with helping her reach the pinnacle of the marathon world.

“It was thanks to Coach Koide that I was able to win an Olympic medal, set a world record, and become the person I am now,” Takahashi said.

“He gave me his precious time, teaching me patiently and running with me. I am so grateful to him, it would be impossible for me to thank him enough,” she said.

As a collegiate athlete, Koide ran the Hakone Ekiden for Juntendo University three times.

Koide had battled health problems in recent years and had cut back on public appearances.