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Boston Marathon: Japanese athletes competing with hearts on homeland

Even when disaster struck his native Japan last month, Masazumi Soejima knew nothing would stop him from competing in today’s Marathon.

Masazumi Soejima is bound by a wheelchair — but his limits are boundless.

Even when disaster struck his native Japan last month, he knew nothing would stop him from competing in today’s Marathon.

“As long as the planes were flying, I knew I was going to get here,” the 2007 Men’s Wheelchair Champion said, via interpreter. “So I wasn’t too worried.”

But that doesn’t mean training wasn’t supremely challenging for the 77 residents of tsunami-ravaged Japan competing today.

“Even getting little things, like water, has been difficult,” Takami Ominami said. “Every single day there’s an earthquake in Japan, so it was nice to come to Boston and be able to sleep a whole night through and not have any shaking or earthquake or fear.”

The Boston Athletic Association contributed $35,000 to Japan relief while Marathon sponsor John Hancock gave more than $1 million, excluding proceeds from friendship bracelets sold at the Sports and Fitness Expo.

Harvard for Japan also gave versions of “Hope for Japan” bracelets to the Japanese athletes and plans to greet them at the finish line today.

“It’s so amazing for them to come to Boston, to run and to send a message to the people of Japan and the victims,” said Rintaro Iwasaki of Harvard for Japan.

 
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