Skip to main content

Japanese Olympic Marathon Teams Announced

by Brett Larner

The big news in Japanese distance running today was the announcement of the Japanese women’s and men’s marathon teams for the Beijing Olympics. There were four contenders for each team, both including a tough decision. The results were, for better or worse, unsurprising.

On the women’s side, two of the three slots were taken by Reiko Tosa of Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo, who was guaranteed when she won a bronze medal at the Osaka World Championships last summer, and defending Olympic gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi of Team Sysmex, who had an incredible course record win at the Tokyo International Women’s marathon in November to effectively seal a position. The last slot was a toss-up between Tenmaya teammates Tomo Morimoto, top Japanese but 2nd overall in January’s Osaka International Women’s Marathon where she ran 2:25:34, and 21-year old Yurika Nakamura, who won her marathon debut yesterday at the Nagoya International Women’s Marathon in 2:25:51. While the experienced Morimoto’s time was faster, the selection committee at Rikuren placed higher emphasis on rookie Nakamura’s win. Her 1:11:08 2nd half, a 3 1/2 minute negative split, was surely also a factor. Morimoto is thus consigned to alternate status.

From this it seems that Rikuren’s criteria are good results in a world-level event or a win in one of the three selection races over a fast time. No men medaled in the World Championships or won a selection race, but the selection criteria for them were evidently not simply based upon time. Tsuyoshi Ogata of Team Chugoku Denryoku was chosen based on his 5th in the World Championships last summer, a fair performance but not especially impressive when you consider how easily he was dropped in the final kilometers by eventual 3rd and 4th place finishers Viktor Rothlin and Yared Asmeron. Atsushi Sato, also of Team Chugoku Denryoku, was all but guaranteed a slot thanks to his 2:07:13 3rd place finish at the Fukuoka International Marathon in December. Satoshi Osaki of Team NTT Nishi Nihon was named to the 3rd spot after his 2:08:36 3rd place finish in the Biwako Mainichi Marathon and his 6th in the World Championships. Left over in the alternate spot, unfortunately, is newcomer Arata Fujiwara who had a stellar run in the Tokyo Marathon where he finished 2nd in 2:08:40.

Osaki’s time was only 4 seconds faster than Fujiwara’s, but Fujiwara finished higher and, subjectively, ran a far more impressive race. The more controversial decision is Ogata’s selection over Fujiwara. Ogata’s result in the World Championships was good, but ultimately he was in contention for a medal and failed. Rikuren officials specifically said that Ogata was chosen over Fujiwara for the former's depth of experience and past achievement. Precedent supports this decision. Team Chugoku Denryoku's Shigeru Aburaya was 5th in the 2003 Paris World Championships and was picked for the Athens Olympic team over national record holder Toshinari Takaoka's 3rd place 2:07:59 qualifier; Aburaya duly went on to come in 5th in Athens, the top Japanese placing. Ogata is a reliable runner and says he will run well in Beijing, but 5th place is not a medal.

The media and officials frequently talk about how Japanese men aren’t as good as the women; while they took a risk and added a rookie to the women’s team, Rikuren missed a chance to cultivate a talented new man by choosing a veteran with a history of passable results and a weaker qualifier instead. This has to be a bit discouraging to the younger generations of runners. It would be wonderful to see New York or Chicago pick up Arata Fujiwara this fall and give him the chance he deserves.

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

60-Year-Old Hiromi Nakata Wins Tottori Marathon Overall Women's Race

The Tottori Marathon held its 12th running on March 10. In light rain and 11˚C temperatures 3717 people ran Tottori's one-way course that passes local historic sites such as the Tottori Sand Dunes and the Tottori Castle ruins. Running 3:12:44 for the overall women's win was 60-year-old Hiromi Nakata.
"I was as surprised as anyone that I won," said Tanaka. "I had to stop at the toilets early on and lost some time, but I tried using the double inhale, double exhale breathing method that the actor Kankuro Nakamura uses on the Idaten TV show and got into a good rhythm. Thanks to that I could just keep going and going. I had no idea I was in 1st, and when they put up the finish tape as I was coming in I thought, 'No way!'""
Nakata is a resident of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. In 2017 she ran the fastest time of the year in Japan by a 58-year-old, 3:05:02. In the mornings she does housework and works in her garden for an hour, fitting in 30 to 60-minute run…

Japan's Oldest-Ever Olympic Marathoner Suehiro Ishikawa Retires at 39

At a press conference in Sayama, Saitama on Mar. 20, 2016 Rio Olympics marathoner Suehiro Ishikawa, 39, announced that he will retire from competition at the end of the month. At the time of the Rio Olympics Ishikawa was 36 years and 11 months old, surpassing 1996 Atlanta Olympics marathoner Hiromi Taniguchi's record of 36 years and 3 months to become Japan's oldest-ever Olympic marathoner. He finished 36th.

"Since I started running high school it's been 24 years," said Ishikawa at the press conference. "I've been with Honda for 17 years, and I made it all the way to the top, the Olympics. I'm glad that I've kept going this long. I thank you all."

Ishikawa ran the Mar. 10 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon but dropped out after only 10 km. It was to be the last race of his career. "It was the first time in my career that I'd ever DNFd, and I thought, 'OK, this is where it ends,'" said Ishikawa. Shortly after the race he made …

Tokyo Olympics Logo Designer Sano Denies Plagiarism

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20150805-00000072-nksports-spo

translated by Brett Larner

Amid controversy surrounding the "strong similarity" of the official 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games logos to the logo of Belgium's Theatre de Liege, art director Kenjiro Sano, 43, the person responsible for the Tokyo design, held a press conference August 5th in Tokyo.  Sano strongly denied the theater's claims of plagiarism, calling them "totally groundless" and saying that his design was "something made starting from zero."  Sano said that he "had never seen" the theater's logo, adding, "As an art director I have never ripped anything off," and "This is the culmination of my career.  As something truly original, I wanted to share it with the rest of the world."

Sano was on a business trip to New York through August 4, learning of the current problems while on the trip.  "It was a shock," he said.  …