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Police Send Files to Prosecutor in Case of Former Hakone Ekiden Star Suspected of Assault Against Female Acquaintance

On July 28 investigative officials with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Yoyogi Station confirmed that they have sent files to the prosecutor in the case of a former Aoyama Gakuin University ekiden team member, 23, suspected of assault causing injury against a female acquaintance.

The incident in which the man is suspected took place at the woman's residence in Tokyo on January 26, 2016. He allegedly head-butted the woman in the face and punched her in the stomach, causing minor injuries. According to officials, the woman claims that when she asked the man to give her back a watch she had previously given him he became enraged and attacked her. The woman filed a report with the police in early June the same year. Police also interviewed the man about his version of the events.

A few weeks before the incident the man competed for Aoyama Gakuin University in the Hakone Ekiden, helping lead the team to its second-straight overall win. He graduated from Aoyama Gakuin in March the same year.

Translator's note: This story broke on social media last year. Although the accused man's identity circulated widely on social media, the mainstream Japanese media has not stated his name. The athlete in question is one of the biggest stars of his generation, with individual stage wins at the National High School Ekiden and National Men's Ekiden while in high school, two Izumo Ekiden stage wins including a still-standing course record, one National University Ekiden stage win and one Hakone Ekiden stage win while at Aoyama Gakuin. Two days before the alleged incident he ran the National Men's Ekiden, performing poorly in his last race before graduation. Four days after the incident he was absent from Aoyama Gakuin's Hakone victory parade, attended by tens of thousands of fans. He went on to a high-level corporate team but has not raced since then.

On the basis of the information made public so far popular opinion has been divided over whether the man may be guilty or the target of an obsessed fan. The Hakone Ekiden is the single biggest sporting event in Japan with tens of millions of fans watching its live broadcast and its biggest stars becoming household names. Many of the athletes, some still in their teens, are launched straight into the world of mainstream fame and all that it brings with it. This is especially true at Hakone champ Aoyama Gakuin, where head coach Susumu Hara has fully embraced fame, regularly appearing alongside major celebrities on comedy and variety shows both alone and with some of his student runners and saying publicly that he thinks it is a good thing for the sport for them to be involved in the entertainment industry. Either verdict in this case would raise serious questions about whether celebrity student athletes receive the kind of support and guidance they need to cope with sudden fame and its consequences.

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translated by Brett Larner


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