In a wide-ranging and impassioned speech 4 minutes and 20 seconds long, Kawauchi stoked the team's morale as he told attendees, "I think that there are athletes here today who look at London as just a checkpoint along the way to the Tokyo Olympics. But as a representative of Japan it is not enough just to be there competing. I feel it strongly. You must produce results at this event, the London World Championships. This is the task assigned to each and every one of us. It is critical that we work seriously to achieve our goals. The Japanese people want nothing less. What can we as athletes do for them? More than just wearing the uniform, each of us must go with a heightened consciousness and the utmost of our ability to honor the expectations of all Japanese citizens and produce results they can be proud of."
Kawauchi's words inspired 21-year-old sprinter Shuhei Tada (Kwansei Gakuin Univ.), who will wear the Japanese colors for the first time in the 100 m in London. His eyes shining with excitement, Tada said, "That really got my fires burning. I realized that I've got to be ready to do what's got to be done."
JAAF official Koji Ito, 47, smiled as he commented, "[Kawauchi] said nothing less than what I would have expected from him. I wonder if he had that speech prepared in advance." Regarding the reasons for Kawauchi's nomination to team captain, Ito said, "He is a powerful speaker, and his words resonate with the others including the long distance athletes. Heading toward Tokyo 2020 we want to make a strong Team Japan."
With no men in the 5000 m or 10000 m this year's team is small, with only 36 men and women set to represent Japan in individual events. It is to be hoped that Kawauchi's stirring words will serve as inspiration for athletes who suffered the disappointment of missing the chance to represent their country in London, so that as many athletes as possible make the national team for the Tokyo Olympics.
Of his own race on Aug. 6, Kawauchi said that his preparations are going as planned. "I'm not concerned about time. I'm going there to win a medal," he said. "I want to use everything I've learned in my running up to now and run a race worthy of the Japanese national team." An entire nation is waiting to watch Kawauchi's final race wearing the Rising Sun, a run of pure heart and soul.
東京の英国大使館にて、ロンドン世界選手権日本代表壮行会が開催中。オフィシャルスーツに身を包んだ選手たちと大使公邸の外観がマッチングしてます。 pic.twitter.com/z2cLtHLPlG— 陸マガ(陸上競技マガジン) (@rikumaga) July 21, 2017
translated and edited by Brett Larner
Man in Black photo © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved