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Top Runners Ogata and Fukushi Coming Together for First Mixed-Team Chiba International Ekiden

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/top/sp200711/sp2007111405.html

translated by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner

On Nov. 13, the JAAF announced the runners for the Nov. 23 Chiba International Ekiden, an event which will see the top runners in the world handing off the tasuki. This year the ekiden will feature mixed teams of male and female runners for the first time. Men will be running odd-numbered legs. The Japanese team will include Osaka World Championships marathon 5th place finisher Tsuyoshi Ogata (34, Team Chugoku Denryoku; pictured top right) and university star runners Kensuke Takezawa (21, Waseda University) and Yuichiro Ueno (22, Chuo University). Women will run even-numbered legs, with stars like Osaka World Championships 10000 m representative Kayoko Fukushi (25, Team Wacoal) appearing as team members.

The Chiba International Ekiden is a historic event which is changing format this year. Elite runners whom Japan will proudly present are gathering in Chiba for the race. With this elite unit Japan is aiming to become the `first king` of the new format.

Ogata is leading the men`s half of the team as their ace runner. Three months after the very harsh World Championships marathon, he will be demonstrating his capabilities as the favourite for the 2008 Beijing Olympic marathon team.

The team will also feature talented young runners Takezawa and Ueno who will battle each other as rivals at the Hakone Ekiden in early January. Waseda`s Takezawa (pictured middle right) was the only Japanese university distance runner in the Osaka World Championships where he ran the 10000 m. Ueno, one of the `four college kings,` set a new stage record on the first stage of October`s Izumo Ekiden and passed 7 runners on the 4th stage of November`s All-Japan University Ekiden. These two young men intend to become world-class runners. To Hakone and on to the Olympics, their dreams begin in Chiba.

The female members of the team are all highly idiosyncratic runners. Top Japanese female distance runner Fukushi (pictured right) is running Chiba for the 5th time after a 4-year absence from the event. Megumi Kinukawa (18, Sendai Ikuei High School) ran in the Osaka World Championships as a high school student. Fukushi and Kinukawa are popular for both their talent and their unique personalities. The 3rd female member, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), is a member of the "running mother" demographic. Megumi Seike (Team Sysmex), who is a teammate of Mizuki Noguchi and expected to be her successor, is also on the Japanese team. Playing tag with the men, they will dominate Chiba.

2-year male and female champions Kenya will field a strong team including Osaka World Championships marathon winner Catherine Ndereba (35).

The Chiba International Ekiden is one of the biggest international ekiden events. From this year the format has been changed to a mixed male and female format for the first time in the event`s history. Since the first running in 1988, which was Toshihiko Seko`s retirement race, the event has received international attention as a race which brings in world-class runners. This year is the 19th edition. Japan has won the men`s division 4 times and the women`s division 10 times. Kenya has won both the men`s and women`s divisions for the last two years.

Start time: November 23, 1:07 p.m.
Course info: 42.195 km course with 6 stages, 3 male and 3 female starting and finishing at the Chiba Prefectural Sogo Stadium
Entrants: 15 teams from 13 countries
Broadcast info: To be broadcast on Fuji Television Nov. 23 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:25 p.m.

Men:
Tsuyoshi Ogata (34, Team Chugoku Denryoku)
Kenji Noguchi (32, Team Shikoku Denryoku)
Kensuke Takezawa (21, Waseda University)
Yuichiro Ueno (22, Chuo University)

Women:
Kayoko Fukushi (25, Team Wacoal)
Megumi Kinukawa (18, Sendai Ikuei High School)
Yukiko Akaba (28, Team Hokuren)
Megumi Seike (20, Team Sysmex)

Other Chiba International Ekiden Previews:

IAAF (The IAAF mistakenly states that four of Japan`s runners ran on the World Championships marathon team. Only one member of the Chiba Int`l Ekiden team, Tsuyoshi Ogata, ran the marathon in Osaka. The other three members listed, Kayoko Fukushi, Megumi Kinukawa and Kensuke Takezawa, ran the 10000 m at the World Championships. Fukushi doubled in the 5000 m.)

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