translated and edited by Brett Larner
Rikuren announced on May 26 that this year`s Sapporo International Half Marathon, to be held June 16, will feature all three members of Japan`s Beijing Olympic men`s marathon team, namely Atsushi Sato (30) and Tsuyoshi Ogata (35) (Team Chugoku Denryoku), and Satoshi Osaki (31) (Team NTT Nishi Nihon). It will be the first time Sapporo has been used as an Olympic test event and the first time in 16 years that all members of a Japanese Olympic marathon team have competed against each other in a single race.
The list of invited foreign runners includes Osaka World Championships bronze medalist and 2008 Tokyo Marathon winner Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland), 2-time Olympic marathon medalist Erick Wainaina (Kenya) and Atlanta Olympics silver medalist Lee Bong Ju (South Korea).
Returning is Kenyan defending champion Mekubo Mogusu (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), who last year set the Sapporo course record of 59:54, in January set the stage record on the 2nd leg of the Hakone Ekiden, and comes fresh from winning the 1500 m, 10000 m and half marathon at last week`s Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships. Mogusu hopes to run for Kenya in the 10000 m at the Beijing Olympics and says of his plans for Sapporo, "I will run much faster than last year`s course record."
Osaka World Championships women`s marathon gold medalist Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) heads the list of foreign women. The domestic women`s field includes Osaka World Championships marathon 6th place finisher Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) and Chisato Osaki (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo).
The Sapporo International Half Marathon is usually held in July, but this year the city of Sapporo is in preparation for the G-8 economic summit to be held later in the summer in the town of Toyako. Rikuren official Toshio Kiuchi explained, "Due to security concerns related to the summit meeting we opted to hold the race one month earlier than in normal years." The change had the side effect of making the Sapporo Half an ideal preparatory race for the Olympics.
As a result, all three members of the Japanese Olympic men`s marathon team opted to compete against each other on the road. In the 51 editions of the race since the Sapporo Half`s founding in 1958 it is the first time that the race will host such a competition. Atsushi Sato is doing altitiude training at a height of 850 m in his native Fukushima Prefecture. Tsuyoshi Ogata is at a training camp in New Zealand. Satoshi Osaki is praticing in Osaka and plans to run the 5000 m at the Golden Games in Nobeoka on May 31st. As the three teammates prepare to their showdown, the knowledge that they will also be facing world-class rivals raises the heat.