translated and edited by Brett Larner
Having already secured a place on the national team for August's World Championships in Berlin, Yuri Kano (30, Second Wind AC) will get an advance taste of world-class competition when she lines up among most of the world's best women for the first time at the Apr. 26 London Marathon.
Kano thought she would win last November's Tokyo International Women's Marathon but she was 2nd after being outrun by Yoshimi Ozaki (27, Team Daiichi Seimei), the younger sister of her Second Wind teammate Akemi Ozaki. Following the final domestic selection race last month, Kano's place on the World Championships team was announced on Mar. 23. "I felt like, 'Finally!'" Kano says. Now, as she faces her first overseas marathon, she is confident. "My training hasn't gone perfectly and I've had some times when I couldn't concentrate, but from here on out I think everything is going to be totally OK."
Kano was born in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture. She went to the top-ranked Suma Gakuen High School, then ran for the powerful Ritsumeikan University team, a matchless pedigree of two of Japan's strongest running schools. A long distance track specialist, she won the silver medal in the World Student Games 10000 m during her third year at Ritsumeikan.
Kano made her marathon debut at the 2007 Osaka International Women's Marathon in hopes of making the 2007 World Championships team. She ran an excellent 2:24:43 but was only named alternate after finishing 3rd. She continued training in case she was picked up for the team, but when all five original members lined up Kano instead ran and won the 2007 Hokkaido Marathon the same month as the World Championships. After the race she experienced serious dehydration and was hospitalized, but she made a full recovery. "I think the experience from that summer is going to help me out this time at the World Championships," Kano says.
Her condition coming into London may not be perfect, but Kano is calm and cool as she sketches out her race plan. "I'm coming in feeling refreshed and I just want to run a smart, controlled race." Kano's coach Manabu Kawagoe adds, "Competing against the world's top athletes will help us find the areas that need improvement. I think she's ready for a very good result." While in Europe for the London Marathon, Kano and Kawagoe also plan to tour the World Championships marathon course in Berlin before returning to Japan on Apr. 28.
Kano's team Second Wind AC is a new model in the professional Japanese running world, a group of world-class athletes supported by amateur runners and sports brand sponsors rather than by a single large corporation. Based in central Tokyo the club counts 650 people among its financial and moral supporters, but in the current worldwide recession it hasn't been easy for Second Wind to continue operating. Kano says, "I want to win a medal." There is no denying that beyond the benefit for her as a professional athlete, a World Championships medal would help Second Wind to pull in additional sponsorship money. From London to Berlin, all eyes will be on Kano as she runs.
In addition to Kano, two other Japanese women, Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) and Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko), are scheduled to run the London Marathon in hopes of making the Berlin World Championships. If one of the two women breaks the time run by Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2:25:40, she will stand a chance of being selected for the team over Akaba.
Translator's note: Tomo Morimoto's coach Yutaka Taketomi became head of the Women's Marathoning Division of Rikuren's new Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee last December shortly before rule changes were announced which allowed results from major overseas marathon to factor into the selection process for the World Championships. Japan-based Mara Yamauchi (U.K.) and Japanese-coached Zhou Chunxiu (China) are also in London's elite field. Click here for complete details on the London elite women's lineup.