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Nakao Top Japanese Finisher at World Half Marathon

by Brett Larner

Team Toyota Boshoku's rookie Yusei Nakao had the strongest Japanese performance at the Rio World Half Marathon Championships on Oct. 12, finishing 5th in the men's race in 1:02:05, while the Japanese women came up with another bronze medal-winning team performance led by the 10th place finish of Team Hokuren's Yukiko Akaba.

In the men's race, Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin University) led the way as the sole non-African in the lead pack of thirteen at the 5 km point, crossing the mark in 14:07. Although he has run faster than this before in a half marathon, Kihara soon ran into trouble and began to move backward, eventually finishing 83rd of 86 finishers in a shocking 1:20:05. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN), Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) and Tetsuo Nishimura (Team YKK) set out at a more conservative pace and finished accordingly. Nakao, who ran a massive PB of 1:02:00 in May's Sendai International Half Marathon, ran the early stages of the race in the second pack 10 seconds back from the leaders at 5 km. He gradually moved up through the field, passing competitors including sub-hour half marathoner Marilson dos Santos (Brazil) and finishing strong in 5th place with a mark just 5 seconds of his PB, an outstanding performance considering the hot conditions. The Japanese men finished 7th out of 16 teams in the team competition.

Like Kihara, Kenyan Mekubo Mogusu, who studies at Japan's Yamanashi Gakuin University, had a stunningly poor performance, dropping out of the race within the first 5 km. The Kenyan men won the men's team competition despite Mogusu's performance.

Despite entering the race with the third-fastest PB and the fastest time of the year in the entire field, Akaba was never a factor, already 41 seconds off the lead pack of nine's aggressive pace at 5 km. She began to move up between 5 and 10 km, picking off a few casualties from the early pace but never cracking the top 10 until the final kilometers when she overtook Ethiopian Meseret Mengitsu. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and last-minute substitute Ikuyo Yamashita ran together for the first half of the race 5 sec/km back from Akaba, with final team member Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) another 5 sec/km behind. Yamashita began to slip by 15 km and lost the third scoring position on the team to a fast-closing Machida in the final km. Once again the women's team had to settle for a bronze medal behind winners Ethiopia and runners-up Kenya. Team Aruze's Julia Mombi was the third scorer for the Kenyan team, finishing 7th overall in 1:11:11.

Japanese Results, World Half Marathon Championships
Men - 7th of 16 teams
5. Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 1:02:05
32. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 1:06:26
37. Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:06:57
49. Tetsuo Nishimura (Team YKK) - 1:08:34
83. Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:20:05
.....
DNF - Mekubo Mogusu (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ. / Kenya)

Women - 3rd of 9 teams
10. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 1:11:39
19. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsu Sumitomo Kaijo) - 1:14:27
22. Yuko Machida (Tea Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:14:52
23. Ikuyo Yamashita (Team ***) - 1:15:05
.....
7. Julia Mombi (Team Aruze / Kenya) - 1:11:11

Complete results including 5 km splits are available for both the men's and women's races.

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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