There were alot of Japanese at EOC. I took an interest in this, as I
speculated that they may be my peers. The Japanese sent 6 men, 5 women,
and 3 officials, compared to 1, 2, and 0 for the US. (Turns out, in
the forest races, I was 6-8 vs the Japanese).
None of this would be particularly interesting, except that I took their
large presence to mean they were becoming serious about international elite
competition. This coupled with the fact that I learned (and I'm sure this
is otherwise old news), that they hired a Finnish coach for their elite
It cost someone alot of money to send such a large team and hire a coach
(I have no idea if this was financed by the athletes (as it is in the US),
their clubs, or their federation). Are the Japanese serious, and could
they be the next "peer nation" poised to leave the US behind, or is there
presence somehow related to their hosting the '05 WOC, as someone else
speculated? (I personally didn't see the logic in the latter, and chose to
speculate the former).
Other commentators have questioned the value of sending a team to World
Cup, and I guess that sentiment could ring even more true with the proposed
demise of the races. But I can see some value in it. Teambuilding, getting
used to the logistics/atmosphere, and the biggest, sending a message (at
least to the athletes, and perhaps the would be elites also), that (we) are
serious about international elite competition. While these "warm and fuzzy"
things are no substitute for training and talent (IMHO), I believe they
have some motivational and psychological value, and should not be
We'll see if the Japanese continue to send teams to WC, and see if they
follow Australia as another non-European nation to step it up a level
on the international scene. (Of course, I have no idea how long (historically)
they have been sending teams to WC, so all my present speculation could
already be demonstrably wrong).