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Ngatuny and Nakamura Warm Up for World Champs With Sapporo Wins

by Brett Larner

click here for race photos

Just a week after qualifying for the World Championships on the track in their respective countries, Kenyan Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Japanese Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) took their first wins at a humid Sapporo International Half Marathon. Japan's World Championships marathon favorites had mixed results but mostly finished far down the field in their last major race before August's big target day.

Ngatuny, who was 2nd in the 10000 m at the Kenyan National Championships last weekend to seize a place on the Kenyan national team, staged a man-to-man battle against three-time champion and course record holder Mekubo Mogusu (Team Aidem), who was running his first significant race since a car accident in February left his coach comatose. Initially accompanied by university ace Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.), Ngatuny and Mogusu pushed each other through the first 2 km in 5:17. It was too much for Gitau who swiftly folded and disappeared.

From there on out Mogusu and Ngatuny alternated the lead, hitting 5 km in 13:38, 10 km in 27:49 and 15 km in 42:17. The pair tried to stay below the hour mark but slipped after 15 km, running 15:03 between 15 km and 20 km. On the major uphill over the final 2 km Ngatuny proved himself the stronger, pushing his alarmingly thin frame ahead of the champion Mogusu and sailing on to the win in 1:00:39, off from his PB but a strong result considering his run in Kenya last weekend and the international travel in between. Ngatuny said in his post-race interview that he knew Mogusu's running well and had been afraid of him and when he would try to break away. For Mogusu, though, it was a rough awakening, one of the first races he has run against worthy competition and one which showed that he has not yet outgrown his inability to respond to a challenge with patience. If he is to have a successful professional career he still needs to grow.

Three of Japan's World Championships marathon men also ran the race. National record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) ran the race consistently among the Kenyans, never really appearing to strain but seeming content with practicing his tactics for Berlin. "I think this was a good result," he commented afterwards. Alternate Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) had a more noteworthy performance, initially hanging back but charging late in the race and falling just steps short of overtaking Sato. Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) was a baffling 98th in 1:07:00, an amateurish performance which from any other runner would raise serious questions about his suitability for the national team. In Fujiwara's case it only solidified his reputation for unpredictability.

The women's race started off more conservatively, with a large pack including all the contenders going through 5 km in 16:17. After that World Championships marathon team leader Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), running her first race in months following injury problems, led the way for runners falling off the back of the pack. At 10 km only six runners, Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo), Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), Julia Mombi (Team Aruze), Yukari Sahaku (Team Aruze), Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) and Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) crossed the mat together in 32:49.

At 12.5 km tiny Sahaku, who was a narrow 2nd at last weekend's National Championships 10000 m to qualify for Berlin, led a charge which strung out the pack and soon eliminated all but Mombi and Nakamura. Sahaku took confidence from having beaten Nakamura in the 10000 m, but she could not get away. Her teammate Mombi, who will run the marathon for Kenya at the World Championships, soon returned. Nakamura, who also qualified for Berlin by finishing 2nd in the 5000 m at the National Championships, followed suit, and the trio passed 15 km in 49:17.

As in the men's race, the breakaway happened in the uphill final 2 km. This time it was Nakamura, who opened up on the two Aruze runners, hit 20 km alone in 1:05:56 and on to a win in 1:09:20, a PB by 40 seconds. Nakamura, who suffered from a lack of stamina and finishing power through much of the spring track season said afterwards that her goal had been to be able to sustain her pace over the last part of the race and that she was glad to have been able to pull it off. Mombi was a short distance behind in 2nd, a minute slower than her PB in 1:09:30. Sahaku impressed again, taking nearly 3 minutes off her PB to finish 3rd in 1:09:36.

Defending champion and World Championships marathoner Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) was 5th in 1:11:19, an improvement on her performance at the National Championships but showing she still has work to do this summer. The Berlin team's weakest member, Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) was a credible 9th and team alternate Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) was 19th, but the biggest news was Shibui's 23rd place finish in a PW of 1:14:09, nearly 5 minutes off both her best and Nakamura's winning time. There is still time for her to complete her return to form, but as Japan's medal favorite in Berlin Shibui's run leaves her fans biting their nails.

2009 Sapporo International Half Marathon - Top Finishers
click division header for complete results

Men
1. Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:00:39
2. Mekubo Mogusu (Team Aidem) - 1:00:58
3. Cyrus Njui (Team Hitachi Cable) - 1:01:03 - PB
4. Stephen Ndung (Team Aichi Steel) - 1:01:29
5. Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) - 1:02:39
6. James Mwangi (Team NTN) - 1:02:43
7. Kiragu Njuguna (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 1:02:44
8. Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) - 1:02:51
9. Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:02:54
10. Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 1:02:54
-----
12. Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) - 1:03:05
23. Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:12
98. Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:07:00
104. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) - 1:07:19

Women
1. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 1:09:20 - PB
2. Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) - 1:09:30
3. Yukari Sahaku (Team Aruze) - 1:09:36 - PB
4. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 1:10:59
5. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 1:11:19
6. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 1:11:32
7. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) - 1:11:35
8. Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:11:57
9. Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 1:11:58
10. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 1:12:13
-----
19. Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) - 1:13:58
23. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 1:14:09

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

kevin said…
Mitsui Kaijo team member suck. They should have some good runners as they finish 2nd at the ekiden.
Anonymous said…
Did Mari Ozaki run?
Kevin said…
Julia Mumbi is the best. She finish 1st and 2nd so many times. She was runner up to akaba and Noguchiin sendai and she won miyazaki and Kobe twice. I don't think she'll win but she'll probably get a medal at the world champs.
Kevin said…
What's next for Mari Ozaki? It it time for her to retire? She's one of the oldest one in Sapporo. She's 11 years older than Nakamura. And she only ran 5 marathons in her career. She won't ever run the marathon again.
Kevin said…
Poor Shibui. It's like she's gonna bomb at the world champs all over again and run outside 2:30:00. This race is very important cause it determines how she'll do at the world champs. I thought her form was good. In Osaka everyone says 1:13:00 was slow for her and now she can't even run 1:13:00
Kevin said…
Yurika Nakamura is such a big threat to everyone. Everyone's scared of Nakamura. How does Kano feel losing to Nakamura? She keep losing to Nakamura all the time.
kevin said…
Nakamura accomplish so much. Her half marthon pb is faster than Yoshimi Ozaki now.

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