Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Japanese Olympic Track Results - Aug. 20

by Brett Larner

Men's 5000 m - Heats
National record holder and three-time national champion Takayuki Matsumiya and national university record holder Kensuke Matsumiya ran in the heats of the men's 5000 m after having competed in Sunday's 10000 m final. Neither athlete advanced to the final.

Matsumiya, seemingly in poor shape in the 10000 m, appeared in better form today, running comfortably within the pack through 3000 m, when he was spiked in his left leg by Sultan Khamis Zaman of Qatar. Shortly afterwards, without warning, as Matsumiya made a move on the outside to head toward the front of the pack his left shoe came off. He continued running but soon began to slip away from the pack, his face showing the pain he felt as blisters began to develop on his exposed foot. Matsumiya finished second to last in 14:20.24, both legs splattered with blood.

He immediately went to retrieve his lost shoe, putting it back on before heading for a post-race interview. The national record holder modestly commented, "This race showed me how much of a gap there is between me and the rest of the world. I have to work harder." When the interviewer replied that losing a shoe surely had an impact on his performance, Matsumiya refused to make excuses, downplaying the accident by saying, "No matter what happened, there is a gap that I have to work harder to overcome."

Takezawa, who has been seriously injured since last December, ran in the third heat. He started off just behind world champion Bernard Lagat of the U.S.A., but when Lagat moved up Takezawa fell in next to world record holder Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia at the back of the pack. As the race progressed at a relatively slow pace it began to appear that Takezawa was banking on using his sub-60 second finishing speed to try for a spot in the finals.

It also became clear that Takezawa had an audacious race plan of covering Bekele's moves. Every time Bekele went out and passed a competitor Takezawa was right behind. Far from peak shape after his long layoff, Takezawa had a strong last lap but was unable to match the leaders' speed, finishing in 7th in 13:49.42. Takezawa had the distinction of being the only competitor in the three heats to set a season best time, albeit one over 30 seconds slower than the PB he set last year.

In his post-race interview Takezawa confirmed that his pre-race strategy was to try to cover Bekele. "The pace was quite slow, but I did not want to take the lead because that was not part of the strategy of staying near Bekele. I could not stay with him in the end but this race showed me how much ground I have to make up in order to compete internationally." The maturity he showed in his racing shows depsite the disappointing result that Takezawa is indeed one of the greatest hopes for the future of Japanese distance running, if his seemingly fragile legs cooperate by staying injury-free.

(c) Brett Larner
all rights reserved

1 comment:

Roberto said...

"As the race progressed at a relatively slow pace it began to appear that Takezawa was banking on using his sub-60 second finishing speed to try for a spot in the finals."

It stuns me how many athletes in the 5K last night seemed to want to gamble on outkicking guys (e.g. Bekele, Lagat) with proven 52-53 second last lap speed off a slow pace. Astonishingly, though heat 1 was slow (13:37, I think), both succeeding heats were even slower!

Taking 4 + 3, it doesn't take a brain surgeon (though clearly none were running last night) to understand that if you push a bit faster (and pushing faster than 13:37 is not onerous, at that level), an additional three qualifying spots open up.

Because you're NOT going to take Bekele's spot. You've NOT going to take Lagat's spot.

The sort of race strategy that could have been developed in consultation with ... Alan Webb.

As for Matsumiya, gutsy (as expected ... he's Japanese)run, but he would very probably have done himself a service by stopping on that lap or the next (while the pace was slow) to put his shoe on.