translated and edited by Brett Larner
Rikuren's Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee held a meeting at the National Training Center in Tokyo's Kita Ward on Apr. 23. With regard to August's World Championships in Berlin, committee director Susumu Takano commented, "We're not in a position to discuss our goals in much detail quite yet, but I will say that we expect to improve on our overall performances from the last two years." Japan earned one medal in athletics at the 2007 World Championships, Reiko Tosa's bronze in the women's marathon, and two in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the men's 4 x 100 m relay team's bronze and Koji Murofushi's bronze in the men's hammer throw.
Takano went on to add that the committee anticipates two finishers within the top eight in the World Championships women's marathon and a medal from 50 km race walk star Yuki Yamazaki. With regard to Japanese women's marathoning and the London Olympics Takano told reporters, "We must recover the confidence we've lost at the Olympic level. Through proper leadership and guidance we will cultivate the next generation of young marathoners into becoming more powerful as they mature. We aim to have at least six women capable of breaking 2:25, thereby increasing the overall depth of our athlete pool."
Takano also revealed that the final member of the men's and women's marathon teams for the World Championships will be announced on May 7.
Translator's note: Sunday's London Marathon is the final opportunity for Japanese marathoners to qualify for the World Championships team. If Atsushi Sato breaks 2:10 he will be selected for the men's team; otherwise the decision will be between him, Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon runner-up Seiji Kobayashi, and Tokyo Marathon 3rd-place finisher Kensuke Takahashi. Sato has previously broken 2:10 four times.
Yuri Kano is running London but has already been named to the World Championships team. The other two Japanese women in London, Tomo Morimoto and Mika Okunaga, must break 2:25:40 to beat out Osaka International Women's Marathon runner-up Yukiko Akaba for the final place on the team. Morimoto has broken 2:25:40 in two of her five marathons to date while Okunaga, who has run four marathons, holds a PB of only 2:27:16. Okunaga thoroughly beat Morimoto in March's National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon Championships, 1:12:50 to 1:15:00.
Both Sato and Morimoto likely have a leg up in the selection process in that their coaches, Yasushi Sakaguchi and Yutaka Taketomi respectively, are the heads of the selection committees for the men's and women's teams.