Crisis at home weighs on Japan's No 1 ahead of London Marathon
Friday 15 April 2011
Yukiko Akaba was in New Zealand in February, training with eight other members of the Japanese national marathon squad, when the foundations of her world started to shake. "We were in Christchurch when the earthquake struck," she recalled yesterday, sitting in a hotel next to Tower Bridge, having arrived in England for Sunday's London Marathon. "We'd just finished our lunch and we were all going back to our rooms. Our immediate thought was to escape and get outside. We went to a nearby park. It was a frightening and scary experience."
It was not to be the last one for Akaba, the number one women's marathon runner in a nation obsessed with the 26.2-mile event. She was recovering from the trauma of Christchurch and back in training on the Japanese island of Tokunoshima when her homeland was struck by the earthquake and tsunami that wrought widespread devastation on 11 March. Her four-year-old daughter, Yuna, was staying with her husband's parents, closer to the epicentre, in Saitama Prefecture.
"My spirit was broken," Akaba said. "I was unstable. I was worried about my daughter." Thankfully, after a struggle, her in-laws were able to get Yuna to Tokyo's Haneda Airport and mother and daughter were reunited on Tokunoshima Island.
Still, as Akaba prepares for Sunday's race in London – together with eight compatriots who have been flown over by the organisers to press their claims for selection for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in August, following the cancellation of the Japanese trial – she has other concerns on her mind. Her house has been badly damaged by the earthquake and she is concerned about the threat of radiation there.
"We're worried, especially for our daughter," her husband, Shuhei, who also coaches her, said. "Our house is in Haga-machi town, in Tochigi Prefecture, only 75 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant. For the moment, we're trying to stay away. All outer walls have big cracks running through them. We need a specialist to come in to look at structurally how sound it is."
Akaba finished sixth in the London Marathon last year and hopes for a similarly prominent placing again on Sunday. Alongside her on the start line will be Mizuho Nasukawa, who fought back tears yesterday as she performed a cradling action to describe the fate suffered in the Japanese tragedy by one of her close friends and former high school team-mates, Taiko Osawa.
"When they found my friend's body she was holding her baby daughter in her arms," Nasukawa said.
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli comment: Time running out for 'lost boy' to shine at Liverpool, or anywhere
Cristiano Ronaldo applauded by Liverpool fans after master-class for Real Madrid, despite Manchester United ties
Angel Di Maria injury latest: Argentina international set to play in Manchester United vs Chelsea match
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo
Erik Lamela rabona steals the show in five-star Spurs Europa League romp
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior Software Engineer - C#, VB.N...
£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:SECONDARY teachers need...
£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Behaviour Support WorkerThe JobTo...
Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is working in...