Thursday, March 23, 2017

Japanese Team Rosters for Kampala World Cross Country Championships


The World Cross Country Championships take place this Sunday, March 26 in Kampala, Uganda.  Perpetual team medal contenders, the Japanese junior women's squad is the strongest part of the Japanese roster, featuring four women with 3000 m bests under 9:10 led by 8:58.86 runner Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu of 2016 National High School Ekiden champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.  The Japanese national team for the 2017 World Cross Country Championships:

Senior Men's 10 km
Kosei Yamaguchi (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 28:34.19
Shota Maeda (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 28:59.86
Yuma Higashi (Team Kyudenko) - 29:14.78
Haruki Ono (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:18.49
Yamato Otsuka (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:22.18

Senior Women's 10 km
Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal) - 32:15.73
Kaori Morita (Team Panasonic) - 32:27
Yuki Hori (Team Panasonic) - 32:40
Fumika Sasaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 33:37

Junior Men's 8 km
Keita Yoshida (Sera H.S.) - 13:50.67
Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 13:53.75
Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 13:54.16
Ryunosuke Chigira (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 14:07.42
Sodai Shimizu (Rakunan H.S.) - 14:12.57
Yoji Sakai (Suma Gakuen H.S.)

Junior Women's 6 km
Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 8:58.86
Rika Kaseda (Narita H.S.) - 9:05.64
Yuka Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S.) - 9:07.07
Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:08.54
Hikari Onishi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:18.74
Hayaka Suzuki (Tokiha Gakuen Kikugawa H.S.) - 9:22.77

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Seko and Kawauchi Spar at London World Championships Team Meeting

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170320-00000067-dal-spo
https://www.daily.co.jp/general/2017/03/21/0010019282.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In preparation for August's London World Championships, the members of the men's and women's marathon teams attended a team meeting in Tokyo on Mar. 20.  Having announced that this year's World Championships would be his last time contending for a national team, Yuki Kawauchi (30, Saitama Pref. Gov't) displayed extraordinary resolve as he said, "As a representative of Japan in London I fully intend to burn it all."

JAAF Long Distance and Marathon Development Project Leader Toshihiko Seko, 60, gave a 30-minute speech in front of the athletes and their coaches, bemoaning a sense of crisis as he said, "If things keep going this way marathoning is going to die out."  Quoting the words of his legendary mentor, the late Kiyoshi Nakamura, Seko told them, "Do not be like scissors or a razor, easily chipped and blunted.  I wish for you to become an athlete strong like a katana.  The athlete burns white hot and brilliant red like steel, and the coach beats and tempers the steel like a swordsmith.  In this way an athlete can become like the finest Japanese katana."

Women's team member Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and the others listened intently and busily took notes, but Kawauchi, who is self-coached, frowned and said, "To be honest, that'd be pretty tricky.  Since I'd have to be hitting myself and all."  Seko frowned back and said to the others, "Yes, well, in his case he can play both roles."

From start to finish, the two strong personalities of Japanese athletics were on different wavelengths.  Believing heat to be his weak point Kawauchi has decided to stop running on national teams because of the expected temperatures beyond 30 degrees at the 2019 Doha World Championships and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  Seko commented bluntly, "You think too much about being weak in heat.  You're going to summon the god of weakness.  I'd like you to continue until the Tokyo Olympics."

On the way out of the press conference Seko called out, "Kawauchi, you shouldn't say that you're not good in heat!"  Kawauchi replied coolly, "The heat in London won't be a problem."  Seko said, "Not London, Tokyo.  I'm talking about Tokyo," making clear his hopes of seeing Kawauchi in the Olympics. Frustration flashed across Kawauchi's face, and emphasizing his words with strong hand gestures he answered, "Not everyone is aiming for Tokyo.  London is everything!"  Backing off under the force of Kawauchi's reply, Seko bowed and said quietly, "I'm sorry.  You have taught me well."  The almost surreal exchange drew laughs of amazement throughout the venue.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Weekend Half Marathon Roundup

by Brett Larner
Murayama photo courtesy NYRR

The last main racing weekend of the Japanese calendar, this weekend saw high-level half marathon performances at home and abroad.

At the United Airlines NYC Half MarathonKenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), twin brother of 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), ran 1:00:57 for 5th, the best time ever by a Japanese man on U.S. soil and the second-best ever run outside Japan. Collegiate runners Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) and Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) were 22nd and 25th. London World Championships marathon alternate Misato Horie (Team Noritz) ran 1:12:45 for 13th in the women's race.

Japan-based Kenyans Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) took both titles at the Matsue Ladies Road Race, Kimanzi winning the half marathon in 1:10:09 and Obare the 10 km division in 33:14. With Matsue serving as the National University Women's Half Marathon Championships and the selection race for the Japanese women's team for this summer's World University Games, Saki Fukui (Josai Univ.) took the top Japanese position at 2nd overall behind Kimanzi in 1:11:12.  Kanade Furuya of 2016 national champion Matsuyama University was 3rd in 1:11:12 and Kasumi Yamaguchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) 4th in 1:11:17 to join Fukui on the World University Games roster.

Ethiopian teammates Kassa Mekashaw and Abiyot Abinet (both Team Yachiyo Kogyo) dominated an unexpectedly competitive first edition of the new Niigata Half Marathon, outrunning Kenyan Alex Mwangi (Team YKK) and top Japanese man Ryo Ishita (SDF Academy) to go 1-2.  Mekashaw got the win in a PB of 1:01:16.

In Oregon, U.S.-based Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) won the Shamrock Run Portland half marathon in 1:04:12 in a tuneup for his marathon debut at next month's Boston Marathon. Osako's wife Ayumi also ran the Shamrock Run's 5 km in 24:22 and his younger brother Junya the 15 km in 49:25.

Back in Japan, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the first race of his buildup to the London World Championships, setting a course record of 1:05:03 at his hometown Kuki Half Marathon.  With the course passing his old junior high school, Kawauchi ran the race wearing his uniform from those days.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Sets Hometown Kuki Half Marathon Course Record Wearing Junior High School-Era Uniform

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/03/19/kiji/20170319s00056000211000c.html
https://www.daily.co.jp/general/2017/03/19/0010014104.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo by Tsukasa Kawarai

Fresh from being named to the London World Championships men's marathon team on Friday, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the first race of his London buildup Sunday at the Kuki Half Marathon, winning by a massive margin in a course record 1:05:03.  The site of his unofficial half-marathon-in-a-suit world record in its first edition last year, the Kuki Half Marathon is Kawauchi's hometown race.  With a course change sending the race past his alma mater Washinomiya J.H.S. this year, Kawauchi ran wearing his junior high school-era uniform.  "It was a headwind the whole way," he laughed about his time, almost three minutes slower than his PB.  "Now isn't the time to push it. I feel good."

Having declared that the World Championships will be his last time competing on the Japanese national team, Kawauchi looked ahead to the main event five months distant.  "The fact that I'm going there means I intend to medal," he said with determination.  "As I was running today the people of my hometown were calling out, 'Congratulations on London!'  The support was greater than I could have imagined.  That means I have to do it right.  I have to try to live up to those expectations.  There's no room for believing my chances of medalling are zero."

In preparation, he announced that along with several half marathons and June's Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon he will run the Czech Republic's Prague Marathon in May, Sweden's Stockholm Marathon in June, and Australia's Gold Coast Marathon in July.  "In Prague I'll be aiming for a PB, and in Stockholm and Gold Coast sub-2:10," he said.  "When London's over I want to take a break for a while, so until then it's attack attack attack."  Facing his last world-level challenge, Kawauchi remains one-of-a-kind in his approach. Miracles can't happen without pushing yourself beyond your limits.

photo © 2017 Tsukasa Kawarai
all rights reserved

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Murayama Runs Fastest-Ever Japanese Time on U.S. Soil at United Airlines NYC Half



by Brett Larner
photo courtesy of NYRR

Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) ran the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S. soil to take 5th in the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon in 1:00:57.  The first alumnus of the Japan Running News-New York Road Runners program to bring top collegiate talent from November's Ageo City Half Marathon to New York to return as a pro, Murayama asserted himself from the gun, ensuring the race got off to an honest start as he led the first 5 km in 14:24.  "The last time I was here the first 5 km was close to 15:00," he told JRN post-race.  "If it starts too slow it affects how you feel later in the race and keeps too many people up front.  I wanted to run comfortably.  I figured that 14:20 would be about right.  It didn't feel too fast, but when I looked around almost nobody was left."

Remaining up front after just the first 2 km were the eventual top six including Murayama, 2017 Marugame Half winner Callum Hawkins (Great Britain), Rio Olympics marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia), defending champ Stephen Sambu (Kenya), Teshome Mekonen (Ethiopia) and Chris Derrick (U.S.A.).  Hawkins challenged Murayama on the steep uphill just past 5 km, but Murayama, a veteran of the Hakone Ekiden's Fifth Stage, maintained his position.  Running the toughest 5 km of the course in 14:22 Murayama still led at 10 km, but as the pack exited Central Park onto the faster 2nd half Hawkins and Lilesa surged to the front.

Murayama and Derrick fell away, with Sambu trailing the top three and Mekonen struggling to hang on.  As the race rolled on it came down to a sprint finish with Lilesa getting away from Hawkins in characteristic Ethiopian style to win in 1:00:04.  Hawkins was next in 1:00:08, just off his winning time from Marugame last month.  Mekonen rounded out the podium 20 seconds later. Murayama closed hard after 20 km, bearing down on defending champ Sambu in the home straight but coming up just short, Sambu 4th in 1:00:55 and Murayama 5th in 1:00:57.  The seventh-fastest Japanese time ever, Murayama took 51 seconds off the fastest Japanese time on U.S. soil, and by breaking 1:01:00 he become just the second Japanese man ever to go sub-61 outside Japan and the second in history to run sub-61 twice in his career.

This year's two collegiate invitees from the Ageo City Half Marathon, Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) and Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), both struggled relative to their strong 1:01:59 and 1:02:01 top two performances in Ageo last November.  Takeda ran the early part of the race on sub-63 pace, but after exiting Central Park where the pace typically accelerates he slowed progressively, eventually finishing in 1:05:09.  Ueda, coached by his father Masahito Ueda, was in immediate trouble and limped in to a 1:06:13 finish with a possible stress fracture in his shin.  In the women's race, freshly named alternate for the London World Championships marathon squad after a 2:25:44 runner-up finish in Osaka in January, Misato Horie (Team Noritz) ran 1:12:44. Molly Huddle (U.S.A.) outkicked Emily Sisson (U.S.A.) for the win in 1:08:21 with Diane Nukuri (Burundi) just missing a PB in 1:09:13 for 3rd.

12th United Airlines NYC Half Marathon
New York, 3/19/17

Men
1. Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 1:00:04
2. Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) - 1:00:08
3. Teshome Mekonen (Ethiopia) - 1:00:28
4. Stephen Sambu (Kenya) - 1:00:55
5. Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:00:57
6. Chris Derrick (U.S.A.) - 1:01:12 - PB
7. Noah Droddy (U.S.A.) - 1:01:48 - PB
8. Diego Estrada (U.S.A.) - 1:01:54
9. Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 1:02:23
10. Jonny Mellor (Great Britain) - 1:02:23 - PB
-----
22. Rintaro Takeda (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:05:09
25. Kenta Ueda (Japan/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:13

Women
1. Molly Huddle (U.S.A.) - 1:08:19
2. Emily Sisson (U.S.A.) - 1:08:21 - debut
3. Diane Nukuri (Burundi) - 1:09:13
4. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 1:09:37
5. Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) - 1:09:38
6. Sarah Lahti (Sweden) - 1:09:58 - NR
7. Desi Linden (U.S.A.) - 1:11:05
8. Rachel Cliff (Canada) - 1:12:07 - debut
9. Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 1:12:09
10. Kellys Arias (Colombia) - 1:12:12
-----
13. Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz) - 1:12:45

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, March 17, 2017

JAAF Announces Marathon Teams for London World Championships

by Brett Larner

In a livestreamed press conference in Tokyo on Mar. 17 the JAAF announced the women's and men's marathon teams for this summer's London World Championships.  With four selection races each for the three spots on the women's and men's teams the JAAF went with the best balance they could have achieved between quality and fairness.

Making the grade on the women's team were Nagoya Women's Marathon 2nd and 3rd-placers Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya), all three with PBs under 2:24.  Osaka runner-up Misato Horie (Team Noritz) was named alternate.

On the men's side, the team consists of Fukuoka International Marathon 3rd-placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Tokyo Marathon 8th-placer Hiroto Inoue (Team MHPS).  All three have broken 2:09.  10th in Tokyo, Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Team Konica Minolta) was chosen as alternate.

Detailed profiles of all eight athletes:

Women

Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)
Age: 23
PB: 2:21:36 (2nd, 2017 Nagoya Women's Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 2nd, 2017 Nagoya Women's Marathon, 2:21:36
  • 4th, 2016 Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri 10000 m, 31:58.71
  • 10th, 2016 Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships, 1:10:34
  • 1st, 2016 National Women's Ekiden 1st Stage (6.0 km), 19:19
  • 4th, 2015 Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, 1:09:51


Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya)
Age: 29
PB: 2:23:23 (1st, 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon)
Qualifying Time: 2:24:22 (1st, 2017 Osaka International Women's Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 1st, 2017 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2:24:22
  • 14th, 2015 Beijing World Championships Marathon, 2:32:37
  • 2nd, 2015 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2:26:39
  • 76th, 2012 London Olympics Marathon, 2:40:06
  • 1st, 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2:23:23


Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)
Age: 23
PB: 2:23:47 (3rd, 2017 Nagoya Women's Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 3rd, 2017 Nagoya Women's Marathon, 2:23:47
  • 5th, 2016 Valencia Half Marathon, 1:11:07
  • 4th, 2016 Nagoya Women's Marathon, 2:24:32
  • 8th, 2015 Valencia Half Marathon, 1:10:31
  • 2nd, 2015 Marugame International Half Marathon, 1:10:59


Alternate: Misato Horie (Noritz)
Age: 30
PB: 2:25:44 (2nd, 2017 Osaka International Women's Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 2nd, 2017 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2:25:44
  • 11th, 2016 Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, 1:14:05
  • 1st, 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon, 2:26:40 - CR
  • 2nd, 2016 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2:28:20
  • 1st, 2014 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:14:37


Men

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't)
Age: 30
PB: 2:08:14 (4th, 2013 Seoul International Marathon)
Qualifying Time: 2:09:11 (3rd, 2016 Fukuoka International Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 1st, 2017 Ehime Marathon, 2:09:54 - CR
  • 3rd, 2016 Fukuoka International Marathon, 2:09:11
  • 2nd, 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon, 2:09:01
  • 1st, 2016 Okinoshima Ultra 50 km, 2:44:07 - NR
  • 1st, 2016 Zurich Marathon, 2:12:04


Hiroto Inoue (MHPS)
Age: 24
PB: 2:08:22 (8th, 2017 Tokyo Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 8th, 2017 Tokyo Marathon, 2:08:22
  • 9th, 2016 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 2:12:56
  • 1st, 2014 Kanto Region University Half Marathon Championships, 1:04:07
  • 36th, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon Championships, 1:02:25
  • 3rd, 2014 Marugame International Half Marathon, 1:01:39


Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki)
Age: 34
PB: 2:08:35 (2nd, 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon)
Qualifying Time: 2:09:32 (1st, 2017 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 1st, 2017 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, 2:09:32
  • 5th, 2013 Moscow World Championships Marathon, 2:10:50
  • 2nd, 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, 2:08:35
  • 6th, 2012 London Olympics Marathon, 2:11:16
  • 4th, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 2:08:53


Alternate: Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta)
Age: 31
PB: 2:09:12 (10th, 2017 Tokyo Marathon)

Career Highlights:
  • 10th, 2017 Tokyo Marathon, 2:09:12
  • 4th, 2016 New York City Marathon, 2:11:49
  • 1st 2016 New Year Ekiden 5th Stage (15.8 km), 46:58
  • 3rd, 2014 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, 2:11:48
  • 28th, 2013 Marugame International Half Marathon, 1:02:43

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Breaking Down the London World Championships Selection Standings

by Brett Larner

The press conference announcing the Japanese women's and men's teams for August's London World Championships is set for this Friday.  It's a complicated selection process with four separate domestic races each to choose the three women and three men who will represent Japan in London. Essentially, any woman who had run under 2:22:30 or man under 2:07:00 within the selection window and took the top spot at one of the selection races would be on the team.

Barring that, the JAAF would consider a pool of ten for each team, the top woman at last August's Hokkaido Marathon and the top three domestic women from November's Saitama International Marathon, January's Osaka International Women's Marathon and March's Nagoya Women's Marathon, and for men the top Japanese man at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and the top three from December's Fukuoka International Marathon, February's Tokyo Marathon and March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.

Runners in the pool would be evaluated on a range of criteria including finishing time, place, competitiveness versus the winners and their strategy within the race.  The criteria leave wiggle room for the JAAF to play favorites to some degree, a fact that drew intense media and public scrutiny after a highly controversial decision in naming the 2015 Beijing World Championships women's team.

Women
  • Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:21:36 (2nd, Nagoya Women's 2017)
  • Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:23:47 (3rd, Nagoya Women's 2017)
  • Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya) - 2:24:22 (1st, Osaka Int'l 2017)
  • Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 2:32:33 (1st, Hokkaido 2016)
  • Mizuho Nasukawa (Universal Entertainment) - 2:33:16 (5th, Saitama 2016)

Looking at the top end of the contenders for the women's team, it looks pretty clear that there is only one possible lineup the JAAF might name.  Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) is on the team for sure after clearing the 2:22:30 qualifying standard for 2nd in Nagoya in her debut.  Her Suzuki teammate Mao Kiyota is very likely in after a 2:23:47 for 3rd in just her second career marathon, running most of the race solo after going with Ando and winner Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) for the first 10 km or so.  Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) won Osaka in 2:24:22, the third-fastest time among the ten contenders, and with past Olympic and World Championships experience her chances of being picked are at least as good as Kiyota's.

There's no real scenario in which the JAAF would pick Hokkaido winner Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), who also ran all three of the other selection races without taking the top Japanese spot in any, and even less chance that the top Japanese woman from Saitama, Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) will make it.  Altogether it looks like the women's team will be made up of two talented young rising stars and one experienced veteran, a good mix as the Japanese women look to return to the medals after coming up short last time around.

Men
  • Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) - 2:08:22 (8th, Tokyo 2017)
  • Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:11 (3rd, Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
  • Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) - 2:09:32 (1st, Beppu-Oita 2017)
  • Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta) - 2:09:12 (10th, Tokyo 2017)
  • Yuta Shitara (Honda) - 2:09:27 (11th, Tokyo 2017)
  • Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:10 (4th, Lake Biwa 2017)

Although women had a 3:18 margin off the 2:19:12 national record to score auto-selection for the London team, at 2:07:00 Japanese men had to run within 44 seconds of the 2:06:16 national record to make it.  Although more than one took a serious stab at doing it, needless to say none did.  Had the men's standard been been based off an equitable margin to the women's five men would have broken it, with Hiroto Inoue (Team MHPS), Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) all taking the top Japanese spots in their races.  Instead, facing a much harder standard, they are left entirely at the mercy of JAAF politics, and there's more than one possible way it could go.

Inoue looks set, running most of Tokyo at national record pace in his second marathon and taking the top Japanese spot at 8th overall in 2:08:22.  By just about any objective criteria Kawauchi is next in line, having run a brutally aggressive race for 3rd in 2:09:11 in Fukuoka to finish just seconds behind defending World Championships silver medalist Yemane Tsegaye (Ethiopia) and former world record holder Patrick Makau (Kenya).  The third spot is harder to call.

Nakamoto won Beppu-Oita in 2:09:32 with a smart run that saw him up front for most of the race, and as Japan's best championships marathoner of the modern era he'd be an equally smart choice for the team.  But Beppu-Oita was only a second-tier selection event with a weaker field than the other three events, and in Tokyo both Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Team Konica Minolta) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) were faster.

There's no chance that the top Japanese man at Lake Biwa, Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) will make it, but there's a case to be made for Yamamoto over Nakamoto. Off a conservative first half in the second Japanese pack Yamamoto ran 20 seconds faster than Nakamoto and is still on the way up in his career, having been just seconds out of 3rd place at November's New York City Marathon.  Nakamoto needed a comeback run after a few bad years in order to win Beppu-Oita, and there's not much doubt London could be the end of his career.

There's even a plausible scenario in which they could choose Shitara over both Yamamoto and Nakamoto.  In his marathon debut in Tokyo Shitara was fearless and bold, suicidal, some might say, going through halfway in 1:01:55 and despite dying late still coming in faster than Nakamoto's winning time. Although the JAAF said they were looking for negative splits this time they've always loved frontrunning and Shitara earned high praise immediately post-race.  1991 Tokyo World Championships gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi publicly called for Shitara to be put on the London team, and, in a twist, said Yamamoto should also be on instead of Kawauchi.

That doesn't sound likely, but it's an indication of how much wiggle room there is within the JAAF's methodology that it could be a possibility.  Whatever the final decision, it goes public tomorrow.  Live streaming of the announcement starts at 5:00 p.m. Japan time on Mar. 17.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Olympic Medalist Kirwa Over Fastest-Ever Japanese First-Timer Ando at Nagoya Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner


Rio Olympics silver medalist, two-time defending champion and course record holder Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) brought the race of her career to the Nagoya Women's Marathon.  And she needed to in order to win.

Despite a fall at the start Kirwa was out strong, accompanied by the star first-timer of last year's Nagoya, Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), her debuting teammate Yuka Ando, and the likewise debuting Hisami Ishii (Team Yamada Denki).  The 5 km split of 16:51 put them on track for 2:22:12, just under the JAAF's London World Championships auto-selection standard of 2:22:30, but when the pacers took it up to 16:25 for the next 5 km the pace got too hot for Kiyota and Ishii.

Kiyota made a few brave attempts to get back on board but quickly lost touch for good.  Ando, 10th at last year's Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships, stayed right with Kirwa, both looking strong as they went through halfway in 1:10:21 exactly 30 seconds off Ando's half marathon best. As the kilometers went by it was clear something big was on the way. A surge from Kirwa before 28 km but still together at 30 km in 1:40:41, 2:21:37 pace, PB and CR pace for Kirwa and a time only three Japanese women had ever cleared in the cards for Ando.

Kirwa surged again near 33 km and opened a small gap that grew to 7 seconds by 35 km and 18 seconds at 40 km.  Sailing in to the finish, Kirwa took almost 30 seconds off her best and nearly a minute off her own course record as she crossed the line in 2:21:17.  In 33 years of Nagoya history she became the first woman to win it three times, her 2015-2017 sweep including two course records a very tough challenge for any future winners to ever top.


Ando couldn't match Kirwa over the closing kilometers but never faltered, coming in to incredible home ground fanfare as she broke Kirwa's old course record in 2:21:36.  The fastest-ever debut by a Japanese woman and one of the fastest in world history, Ando's time put her at all-time Japanese #4, the first time since 2007 a Japanese woman has run under 2:22, setting her atop modern Japanese women's marathoning like a beacon shining out to show the rest of the women the way back.

Kiyota spent almost the entire race alone but stayed focused and cut almost a minute off her debut time from last year, taking 3rd in 2:23:47.  With Ando a lock for the London team and Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) having run 2:24:22 there's a very good chance Kiyota will make it to London too, a major coup for the non-corporate league Suzuki Hamamatsu AC club team if it comes true.

Early lead group fellow traveller Ishii faded back into the second group, overtaken by Sayaka Kuwahara (Team Sekisui Kagaku) for 4th but holding on for a quality 2:27:35 debut in 5th.  Kuwahara was one of only two top ten finishers not to have a banner day.  Besides the top three and Ishii, both 6th and 7th placers Miharu Shimokado (Team Shimamura) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) ran new bests and 2017 National Corporate Half Marathon champion Ai Utsunomiya (Team Miyazaki Ginko) showed potential with a 2:28:52 debut.  40-year-old Australian Sinead Diver took over 2 1/2 minutes off her best with a 2:21:37 for 10th.  All told it was another big day for Nagoya, the top elite women's marathon in the world last year, and a sign that things are going in the right direction for Japanese women's long distance three years out from the big day.


Nagoya Women's Marathon
Nagoya, 3/12/19
click here for complete results

1. Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:21:17 - PB
2. Yuka Ando (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:21:36 - debut
3. Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:23:47 - PB
4. Sayaka Kuwahara (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:26:09
5. Hisami Ishii (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:27:35 - debut
6. Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:27:54 - PB
7. Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:24 - PB
8. Ai Utsunomiya (Japan/Miyazaki Ginko) - 2:28:52 - debut
9. Shiho Takechi (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:30:10
10. Sinead Diver (Australia) - 2:31:37 - PB
11. Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) - 2:32:00
12. Keiko Nogami (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:32:01
13. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:32:12
14. Asami Kato (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:32:36
15. Yui Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:45
16. Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:34:27
17. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) - 2:34:42
18. Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:36:11
19. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/Y.W.C.) - 2:36:44
20. Mei Matsuyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:37:04
21. Eriko Kushima (Japan/Noritz) - 2:37:21
22. Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:39:15
23. Sakie Arai (Japan/Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 2:40:52
24. Ruka Nakamura (Japan/Kojima Press) - 2:40:54
25. Yurie Doi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:41:27
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DNF - Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (U.S.A.)
DNF - Kate Coburn (Australia)
DNF - Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz)
DNF - Monica Jepkoech (Kenya)
DNF - Yoko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren)

© 2017 Brett Larner
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