by Brett Larner
1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) ran 15:11.97 in heavy rain to win the Japanese National Track and Field Championships women`s 5000 m over four-time winner and 5000 m national record Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), 10000 m runner-up Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and 10000 m winner Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo). Kobayashi`s time was just short of the Olympic A-standard but she was automatically selected for the Beijing Olympics team as she had run an A-standard qualifier earlier in the season.
After a slow 3:06 first kilometer led by 10000 m A-standard fourth place finisher Noriko Matsuoka (Team Suzuki), Shibui picked up the pace with a 3:01 second kilometer to keep things on track for an A-standard attempt. She faltered in the third kilometer, the pace dropping to 3:05. Fukushi then took over, followed closely by Kobayashi and Akaba, but her lead resulted in the slowest split of the race, a 3:07 fourth kilometer.
With 500 m to go, Kobayashi had had enough. She kicked hard, swiftly gapping the struggling Fukushi who, as in the 10000 m, displayed her current lack of fitness by being completely unable to respond. Instead it was Akaba who went after the lead, but it was clear that she would not be able to overtake the leader. Akaba was second, followed at regular intervals by Fukushi, Shibui and B-standard holder Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso). Matsuoka held on for sixth a long distance behind.
Kobayashi's decision not to compete in the 1500 m proved wise. Kobayashi set the 1500 m national record of 4:07.86 in 2006, an Olympic B-standard time but outside the qualification window. In repeated attempts this spring she failed to break either the A or B-standards in the 1500 m, but in April she set the only A-standard 5000 m mark of the year by a Japanese woman. With only the post-injury phase Fukushi as an A-standard rival, Kobayashi opted not to run the 1500 m, which had its final 80 minutes before the 5000 m. It was a safe bet as she easily secured her Olympic spot.
The next four finishers also broke the Olympic B-standard, but as Fukushi was the only other woman with an A-standard mark she is the only person likely to be named to the team alongside Kobayashi. 2nd place finisher Akaba`s lack of an A-standard mark means her chances are slimmer than in the 10000 m, in which she was also 2nd but well under the Olympic A-standard. In any case, Rikuren will announce the Japanese Olympic track and field team membership tomorrow, June 30.
1. Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki): 15:11.97 (selected for Olympic team)
2. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren): 15:13.95
3. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal): 15:16.27
4. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo): 15:19.29
5. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso): 15:21.12
6. Noriko Matsuoka (Team Suzuki): 15:32.79
7. Akane Taira (Team Panasonic): 15:35.61
8. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.): 15:35.87
9. Chitsuki Takagi (Team Starts): 15:36.53
10. Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei): 15:40.54
For complete results click here.
(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved