translated and edited by Brett Larner
Click photo for a preview video of the 2009 Yokohama International Women's Ekiden (viewing area may be limited).
On Feb. 12 the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden organizing committee held a press conference to announce the lineup of the Japanese national team for this year's 27th and final running scheduled for Feb. 22. Leading the team are Beijing Olympians Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki). Shibui, who will compete in the marathon at this summer's World Championships in Berlin, set a stage record the last time she ran Yokohama in 2002. Kobayashi has run the 1st leg for the last three years, winning the stage in 2008.
Joining Shibui and Kobayashi are a strong squad made up of 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon runner-up Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC), #1-ranked university runner Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and rising stars Ryoko Kisaki (Team Daihatsu) and Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya). Kano set a stage record on Yokohama's 5th leg in 2005, and Kojima has extensive successful experience in international ekidens despite her young age. With such an impressive membership the Japanese national team will be hungry for its first win in four years.
Along with the Japanese national team and seven regional Japanese squads, teams from six other countries including Russia, Romania, the U.S.A., Kenya, Finland and China will compete. Among the foreign athletes scheduled to run are Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Constantina Dita (Romania) and 10000 m specialists Maria Konovalova and Inga Abitova (Russia). Complete lineups for the other thirteen teams are available here.
The Yokohama International Women's Ekiden covers a six-stage, 42.195 km course beginning and ending at Yokohama's Akarenga arts space. With last year's demise of the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, the ekiden is being replaced with a new Yokohama International Women's Marathon to take place in November. The final edition of the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden will be broadcast live nationwide on NTV beginning at 12:00 noon on Feb. 22. International viewers should be able to watch online for free through one of the sites listed here.