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Nakamura Gets Lucky and Tsukahara Shows What's to Come - Japanese Nationals Day Three (updated)

by Brett Larner

Kenyan Felista Wanjugu (Team Aruze) sprinted away from three of the cream of Japan's current crop of long distance women to win the women's 5000 m on the third day of the 2009 Japanese National Track and Field Championships, with Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) a close 2nd and picking up her first World Championships berth. The other big results of the day came in the men's 100 m, where Beijing Olympics 4x100 m relay bronze medalist Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) casually dropped a PB of 10.09 in the first heat. Even bigger news was the unheralded Masashi Eriguchi (Waseda Univ.), who ran a PB by 0.20 to win the fifth heat in a World Championships A-standard 10.14.



Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), the only Japanese woman to finish the Beijing Olympics marathon, gained partial redemption for a poor showing in Thursday's 10000 m by being in the lucky position of being able to outkick two superior but injured runners, national record holder and five-time national champion Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) and defending national champion Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki). She led right from the gun, never allowing another Japanese runner to get in front of her. Repeatedly answering brief challenges from Kenyans Felista Wanjugu (Team Aruze) and Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi), Nakamura was the leader at every 1000 m split and stayed close to the World Championships B-standard 15:25 pace.

In the early stages 5000 m national record holder Fukushi, 10000 m champion Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and 2003 national champion over 5000 m Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) were the only Japanese runners to accompany Nakamura in the lead pack, with defending champion Kobayashi, hoping to finish her first race since an injury in April, sitting back in the middle of the pack. Akaba, who will run the marathon at the World Championships, soon dropped off the lead pack as Kobayashi quietly slipped her way forward. Ozaki and Obare followed Akaba in losing touch with the leaders, and with one lap to go Nakamura, Wanjugu, Fukushi and Kobayashi were in a tight pack.

Rounding the last corner Wanjugu moved a step ahead with Nakamura right behind and Fukushi on the outside. Still showing signs of her lack of complete fitness Kobayashi couldn't keep up with the trio and settled for 4th, but as the only one among the top three Japanese women to hold the World Championships A-standard her performance was more than likely enough to assure her spot on the Berlin team.

For Fukushi and Nakamura it was a different story. Both held only the B-standard, meaning that whichever of the two came out on top would make the national team while the other would be consigned to alternate status. As in the 10000 m, Fukushi's problems with plantar fasciitis this spring took their toll and she was unable to handle either Wanjugu or Nakamura's last sprints. Wanjugu took the win dead on the B-standard in 15:25.00, Nakamura was 2nd in 15:25.31 and Fukushi 3rd in 15:25.49.

Nakamura picked up her first national title and a place on the Berlin World Championships team for her efforts, with Kobayashi all but certainly joining her. With only the B-standard currently to her name Fukushi is left in the almost unthinkable position of alternate to Nakamura. If the national record holder and five-time national champion is to make the team she will now have to break the A-standard of 15:10.00 sometime in July.



Olympic bronze medalist Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) kicked off the men's 100 m with a run that brought the crowd to its feet. Taking advantage of the steady 1.8 m/sec tailwind, Tsukahara ran a PB of 10.09 in the first heat looking relaxed and effortless. It was the second-fastest time ever run at Nationals and made Tsukahara only the fourth Japanese man to break 10.10. Although he appeared to be slightly favoring his left leg afterwards, Tsukahara seemed to have plenty more room to improve in the semi and final, especially if conditions stay the same.

After three more uneventful heats, the fifth heat brought an even bigger surprise. Fifth-ranked Masashi Eriguchi (Waseda Univ.) had the run of a lifetime, coming into the heat with a PB of 10.34 and leaving with a World Championships A-standard time of 10.14. Before the heats only Tsukahara and his Beijing bronze medal-winning teammate Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu) held World Championships-elligible marks, with Tsukuba University ace Mitsuhiro Abiko just off the B-standard in 10.30. After Friday's 200 m both Takahira and Abiko scratched from the 100 m, leaving Tsukahara as Japan's lone candidate for the World Championships team. Eriguchi's run means he will now have some company.

In other track action, two-time national champion Satomi Kubokura (Niigata Albirex RC) took her third 400 mH title, easily outrunning newly-pro university ace Sayaka Aoki (Team Natureal) 56.70 to 57.56. Both women will make the Berlin team. In the absence of national record holder Dai Tamesue (Team Mizuno), 2006 national champion Kenji Narisako (Team Mizuno) returned to the top of the men's 400 mH in 49.53, and earned a World Championships spot. 2nd and 3rd place finishers Kazuaki Yoshida (Juntendo Univ.) and Naohiro Kawakita (Team Ishimaru Noodles) cracked the World Championships B-standard, meaning Yoshida will probably join Narisako with Kawakita lined up as alternate. Tasuku Tanonaka (Team Fujitsu) rounded out the track events by unseating four-time men's 110 mH national champion Masato Naito (Team Mizuno), winning in 13.57 to take his first national title and World Championships place. Naito was a disappointing 3rd.

On the field, national record holders Daichi Sawano (Chiba T&F Assoc.) and Koji Murofushi (Team Mizuno) put in another day at the office, winning the men's pole vault and hammer throw and duly securing their Berlin spots. Ryutaro Yamada (Hosei Univ.) caused some excitement in the men's shot put when he came close to the national record of 18.56, marking 18.47 for the win. Yamada, women's shot put champion Yukiko Shirai (Shiga T&F Assoc.) and men's triple jump winner Takanori Sugibayashi (Team Mizuno) all came up short of the World Championships B-standards and will have to try again next month if they are to make the national team.

2009 Japanese National Track and Field Championships - Top Finishers
click event header for complete results
Women's 5000 m
(1.) Felista Wanjugu (Team Aruze) - 15:25.00
2. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 15:25.31
3. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 15:25.49
4. Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:26.84
(5.) Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) - 15:28.22
6. Noriko Matsuoka (Team Suzuki) - 15:29.38
7. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 15:31.80
8. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 15:35.05
9. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 15:36.30
10. Keiko Nogami (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 15:45.87
-----
13. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:56.04
14. Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 16:02.52
(17.) Ann Karindi (Team Suzuki) - 16:09.02

Men's 400 mH - click here for video
1. Kenji Narisako (Team Mizuno) - 49.53
2. Kazuaki Yoshida (Juntendo Univ.) - 49.61
3. Naohiro Kawakita (Team Ishimaru Noodles) - 49.74
4. Mashiro Yoshikata (Kitakyushu RC) - 49.81
5. Yuta Imazeki (Juntendo Univ.) - 50.32
6. Kenta Takeda (Japan T&F Assoc.) - 51.33
7. Tomoharu Kino (Fukuoka Univ.) - 51.82

Women's 400 mH - click here for video
1. Satomi Kubokura (Niigata Albirex RC) - 56.70
2. Sayaka Aoki (Team Natureal) - 57.56
3. Misebi Tago (Chuo Univ.) - 58.03
4. Kana Tsuru (Waseda Univ.) - 58.69
5. Tomomi Yoneda (Chuo Univ.) - 58.72
6. Miki Sawada (Fukuoka Univ.) - 58.83
7. Konomi Akashi (Rikkyo Univ.) - 59.83
8. Makiko Yoshida (Team Natureal) - 59.39

Men's 110 mH - click here for video
1. Tasuku Tanonaka (Team Fujitsu) - 13.57
2. Takayuki Shoto (Takuyo Club) - 13.77
3. Masato Naito (Team Mizuno) - 13.81
4. Yuji Ohashi (Team Mizuno) - 13.81
5. Kazuaki Yoshinaga (JUVY TC) - 13.86
6. Masayuki Ida (Waseda Univ.) - 13.86
7. Yume Moses (Kokusai Budo Univ.) - 13.89
8. Yutaro Furukawa (Team Kojima Press) - 13.96

Men's 100 m Heat 1
1. Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) - 10.09 - PB
2. Yusuke Nii (Hokkaido Hi-Tec AC) - 10.34
3. Yusuke Kotani (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 10.36
4. Kota Sakuma (Abukuma AC) - 10.36

Men's 100 m Heat 5
1. Masashi Eriguchi (Waseda Univ.) - 10.14 - PB
2. Shigeyuki Kojima (Team Asics) - 10.31
3. Sota Kawatsura (Chuo Univ.) - 10.44
4. Yuya Uchiumi (Toyo Univ.) - 10.44
5. Kodai Kato (Chukyo Univ.) - 10.46

Women's Shot Put
1. Yukiko Shirai (Shiga T&F Assoc.) - 15.44
2. Yoko Toyonaga Seiko Gakuen Univ.) - 14.52
3. Reina Hiruta (Tsukuba Univ.) - 14.40

Men's Triple Jump
1. Takanori Sugibayashi (Team Mizuno) - 16.45
2. Yohei Kajikawa (Team M&K) - 16.36
3. Kazuyoshi Ishikawa (Team Ishikawa) - 16.19

Men's Pole Vault
1. Daichi Sawano (Chiba T&F Assoc.) - 5.70
2. Takafumi Suzuki (Tokai Univ.) - 5.50
3. Hiroki Ogita (Kansai Gakuin Univ.) - 5.40

Men's Shot Put
1. Ryutaro Yamada (Hosei Univ.) - 18.47
2. Yohei Murakawa (Team Suzuki Ibaraki) - 18.11
3. Satoshi Hatase (Team Gunma Alsok) - 17.80

Men's Hammer Throw
1. Koji Murofushi (Team Mizuno) - 73.26
2. Hiroaki Doi (Chiba T&F Assoc.) - 69.90
3. Hiroshi Noguchi (Team Gunma Alsok) - 67.84

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Roberto said…
Were the 100s windy? Was watching with one eye from the other room and didn't hear anything about wind (and the finish graphics don't include wind readings), but at the beginning of the broadcast saw a wind sock standing straight out on the infield.
Brett Larner said…
There's been a consistent 1.6-1.8 m/sec tailwind every day so far. Pretty strong but legal. If it keeps up today Tsukahara might do it again, and Fukushima and Takahashi could do the same in the women's 100.
Anonymous said…
I hope tsukahara becomes the first asian/white man to break 10 seconds he is mega talented!
Roberto said…
Thanks and am looking forward to your writeup on Sunday's events. I watched about half of it (was running during the other half ... :-)). The men's 1500 was a tactical shocker, I thought.

Kobayashi, thinking ... what??? Most of us have in minor meets made a decision to let someone go, confident that they'd fade or we'd be able to close the gap, but in championship racing, you just can't do that.
Brett Larner said…
Video will be up shortly. I think Kobayashi completely underestimated Ueno since he's done a lot of crash-and-burn frontrunning. It really had to sting Kobayashi's pride to lose to such a clown, even such a talented one, but he deserves it for running the way he did.

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