Lorraine and I had another Lydiard Coaching Certificate Clinic in Boulder two weekends ago. I got so busy with this and couldn’t keep up with my weekly blog entry!! Oh, well, I think I’ll catch up soon enough though…
Lorraine was so busy getting ready to go to Barcelona the day after the clinic. It would be 25th anniversary of Barcelona Olympics marathon (1992) that they decided to bring all the medalists to celebrate at Zurich Barcelona Marathon.
My wife and I moved to Minneapolis in the fall of 1991 after I left my coaching job at Hitachi, Ltd. women’s running team. The following year was Barcelona Olympic Games. It was the days of Pay-per-View, no twitter, no internet live-coverage, no text message… The only thing I remember was all the fiasco, that they seem to always get themselves into before the Olympics, with Japanese selecting committee. Other than that, I knew Lorraine was running but, honestly, I thought she was more or less a “has-been”. She was 5th in L.A. Olympic marathon and that’s pretty good!! But she sank to disappointing 33rd place at Seoul in 1988, jogging in with a Dutch runner. She was 33-year-old at that time. I remember, sending her a card then basically saying; “Hey, you had a good run (career)!!” with a Japanese phrase, “Otsukare-sama-deshita” meaning; “Worked hard, good job, now rest up…” Basically, this is for a career closing congratulation. As it turned out, I never felt so happy for being wrong!!
Back in 1992, I followed the race with pay-per-view program. It was one of those situations, thanks to great American distance event coverage, mixture with all the other events that were going on (thank God they didn’t have synchronized diving or golf back then yet!!). I was watching it in our apartment room with a bulky box TV…and they showed a Japanese girl battling it out with a tiny Russian going up the (in)famous Montjuic hill!! But then they showed a lonely figure of Lorraine, chasing these two lead women!! The Russian, Yegorova, was just about to leave Arimori going into the stadium and I was screaming into the TV set; “Catch that Japanese…!!” Well, not enough time; but even more so, my wife, who hadn’t met Lorraine at that time yet, was scratching her head why I was not rooting for a Japanese runner…
Lorraine was 37-year-old then. Her (Japanese) shoe sponsor dropped her 2-months before the Olympics siting her age as a reason. Lorraine, on the other hand, received an assurance from the old master, Lydiard himself a few months before the Games. “You know, 80% of runners will not be at the top going into the Olympics,” he told her matter-of-factly. “All you need is to be at your best and compete against 20% of runners…” She didn’t know where he got that statistics but she had no intention not to oblige the Old Man. “You’ve done your homework,” he continued. “This is your time.” This is truly a Lydiard Magic at its best.
There were quite a bit of Lydiard Magic at work in 1992 Olympic marathon. In 1984, when I was visiting New Zealand, Barry Magee told me Korean Federation brought first Lydiard himself and then Magee over there to set up their national marathon program to prepare for 1988 Seoul Olympics. Well, neither of them couldn’t stand their “fermented cabbage” so they came back after 2 weeks!! (one of few things I strongly disagree with them…!!) So they sent a young Lydiard coach by the name of Jack Ralston. Little known fact; Jack laid the foundation for the future marathoning success of South Korea. I asked Barry how they are progressing. “They are running out of time,” he told me. “Maybe the next Olympics…” Next 2 Games, Korea would go on to claim 2 medals (gold for Hwang in 92 and silver for Lee Bong Ju in 96). It was an epic battle between Hwang and Morishita of Japan. Morishita was coached by Soh brothers, who was coached by Hiroshima who was one of the original group to learn Lydiard training back in early 1960s. Soh brothers were spotted regularly in New Zealand for their preparation for 1984 LA Olympics where Takeshi, the younger brother, finished 4th place. Yuko Arimori was coached by Yoshio Koide who is a huge fan of Lydiard. “I still read a page a day from his book,” he told us. Yuko went on to win another Olympic medal, bronze, in Atlanta in 1996 and another runner of Koide, Naoko Takahashi, would go on the become the first Japanese female athlete to win the Olympic gold medal in the marathon. She became the first woman to break 2:20 barrier as well. So Lydiard Magic had influenced at least 4 of the 6 runners who climbed up the podium in 1992 Olympic marathons.
Now the battle was completed; they all fought well and the sense of satisfaction and friendship continue. Lorraine and Yuko would go on to become very close friends. They teamed up and formed “Hearts of Gold”, an NPO to help children who lost limbs in the mining accidents in Cambodia. They started a half marathon race through Anchor Watt and it draws several thousands of runners around the world.
Four years later in Atlanta, Lorraine went on to become the only female athlete to have ever completed four consecutive Olympic marathon while Yuko went on to win her second Olympic medal, this time a bronze; the only Japanese female athlete to win Olympic medal in 2 consecutive Games in a running event. Their friendship continues while Yuko lived in Boulder, CO, and even after Yuko’s unfortunate divorce and her moving back to Japan, their friendship had continued. Olympic motto is to participate and to fight well. Both men’s and women’s races were decided in the final miles; the epic battles over the hills of Montjuic. And such a well-fought battle produces a life-long relationship. Their story represents what makes the Olympic Games so special. And this reunion was an icing on the cake.