Tapped as a possible Olympic torchbearer is Shoji Tomihisa, a 102-year-old athlete of the Hiroshima Prefecture city of Miyoshi who was exposed to radiation after the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
“As long as I’m running (in the relay), I’m focusing on finishing my leg without thinking about my age,” Tomihisa told a news conference held at the Miyoshi Municipal Government on Dec. 17.
Tomihisa was born on Awaji Island in the western Japan prefecture of Hyogo. At the age of 21, he was drafted to the Imperial Japanese Army, and went through a life-and-death situation in China. After returning to Japan, he got a job at the now-dismantled Japanese National Railways. On Aug. 6, 1945, soon after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima that day, he entered the city from Miyoshi Station to join rescue operations, exposing himself to radiation as a result.
After retirement, Tomihisa didn’t particularly play any sport, but he was recommended to try track and field at the age of 97 by his friend and osteopathic physician Hiromi Sadasue, who now coaches Tomihisa.
Tomihisa started running “for health purposes” and now leads a very orderly life, waking up at 4 every morning and training regularly. In 2017 when he was 100, Tomihisa participated in the Chugoku Region Masters Athletics Championship held in Tottori Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, setting a Japanese record of 16:98 for the men’s 60-meter dash in the 100-104 age group.
“I’m blessed that I’m not sick or have any injuries. I will get my muscles back in shape and participate in the relay,” Tomihisa told the news conference. He added, “I was determined to survive somehow after I was exposed to radiation. I want to show everyone an example on how to run (in the relay).”