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Atsushi Sato Honored in Ceremony at His High School

http://www.kahoku.co.jp/news/2008/03/20080315t64004.htm

translated by Brett Larner

Beijing Olympics men's marathon team member Atsushi Sato (29, Team Chugoku Denryoku, Waseda University), a native of Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, was honored in a ceremony at Aizu High School on March 14. Sato is the first marathoner from Fukushima Prefecture to make the Olympic team since Kokichi Tsuburaya 44 years ago* and received the warm support of the students and younger runners in his hometown.

Principal Shinichiro Komori addressed Sato, "Seeing you make the Olympics has been a tremendous motivation for all our students. You are the pride of our school." Following a tradition, Sato wrote four kanji representing the words which best reflect his essence on a large card to present to the school. He wrote a phrase meaning, "An honest heart capable of feeling sorrow."

More than 200 students gave Sato their support. 2nd year class president Takehiro Sato (17), spoke on behalf of the student body. "Run without any worries. The whole school is supporting you." Aizu High School track club members added, "Run Beijing with the spirit of the Byakkotai."**

The entire student body sang Aizu High School's anthem together. Sato remembered the words from his own student days, joining in the song and telling students, "I am able to keep running thanks to the support I receive from you all. My gratitude will become a source of confidence as I fight for a medal."

Sato also appeared at the Fukushima Prefectural Government offices the same day. "I have eternal respect for Tsuburaya's memory," he told listeners with honest emotion. "I will put everything I have into getting a medal."

*Kokichi Tsuburaya won a bronze medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic marathon. He afterwards suffered chronic lower back problems and committed suicide in early 1968, leaving an eloquent note in which he apologized for not being able to run any more and thanked family members for the food they had given him during Japan's post-war years of scarcity.

**The Byakkotai were a group of young samurai in the Aizu area who refused to accept the Meiji government and fought the government's forces until the end, finally committing suicide together rather than give in. The people in Aizu still have deep respect for the Byakkotai.

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