M45 starter gets credit for first sub-10 100-meter Japanese dash

Wataru Fukuoka re-enacts his starting pistol action the day after Japanese record.

On Sept. 9, Yoshihide Kiryu became the first Japanese sprinter to go sub-10 in the 100-meter dash. He’s 21, but that’s not the story. Yoshi’s 9.98 had an aiding wind of 1.8 mps — just under the legal limit of 2.0. And for that the starter is credited — an M45 masters athlete. The local paper reported: “Before firing the starting gun for Kiryu’s race, starter Wataru Fukuoka, 46, set about checking the wind speed carefully. … Upon looking at the indicator, he noticed that the wind flow seemed to be switching regularly between fast and slow. Picking up on this pattern, he decided to shout out ‘on your marks’ at a point where the wind was blowing quickly. The wind then died down, and Fukuoka started the race. He managed to time it perfectly.” Nice job, Wataru! That’s how to help the kiddies.

The story concluded:

Fukuoka looked at the board showing the wind speed after Kiryu crossed the finish line. It showed “1.8 m/seconds.” Fukuoka was delighted, and held up a fist in celebration. Soon after, Kiryu’s time of 9.98 seconds showed up, which increased Fukuoka’s joy even further. He knew that these two figures combined meant that the 10-second barrier had finally been broken by a Japanese runner.

Fukuoka said after the race, Koji Ito, the previous holder of the 100-meter record by a Japanese person, acknowledged his contribution, referring to him as the “splendid starter.”

In his day job, Fukuoka works in the administrative team at nearby Michimori High School. As a youngster, he was a sprinter during his junior high school days, before going on to become a local government employee. From around the age of 30, he became involved in Japan Masters Athletics for veteran athletes.

Driven by a sense of “wanting to return his gratitude to the athletics world,” Fukuoka qualified as an official athletics judge in 2006. His contribution on Sept. 9 can be regarded as an excellent way of paying back this gratitude. Fukuoka says he aspires to be a judge at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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September 16, 2017

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