by Brett Larner
2009 women's 5000 m national champion Yurika Nakamura may not be as talented as the top Kenyans and Ethiopians or even some of her countrywomen, but her performance in the 5000 m final at the 2009 World Championships marks her as the star of the Japanese team with only the medal hopefuls in the women's marathon and men's javelin left to outshine her efforts. In the 10000 m and the 5000 m heats Nakamura took the early lead to keep the races from going out too slowly, ran negative splits, and was rewarded with credible PBs. In the 5000 m final it was the same story. At 1000 m she was in the lead in 3:06.02. When the real racing began she was left behind, ultimately finishing 12th of 15, but she improved her PB from the heats by 8 seconds as she clocked a very decent 15:13.01. Three races in eight days, three PBs. With her stated goal for this year being to improve her track speed before taking another shot at the marathon Nakamura looks well on the way to something big.
2008 national champion and 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi was one spot ahead of Nakamura, 11th overall in 15:12.44. Her time was far off her PB, but after a spring filled with injury it was a season best mark and showed that Kobayashi is almost back to form.
The most anticipated event of the evening for Japanese viewers was the men's 4x100 m relay. Sporting a new lineup containing only half of its Beijing Olympics bronze medal-winning squad along with two up-and-coming student runners, the Japanese team easily made the final. Up against giants like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the new Japanese team was clipped for bronze by the British team by a margin of 0.28 seconds. The Japanese team's mark of 38.30 was a season best, and while they fell short of extending the legacy of last year's first-ever Japanese men's track medal it was a hopeful sign for the country's aspirations of developing world-class sprinters. The women's 4x100 m squad featuring national record holder Chisato Fukushima was unable to follow suit, finishing 14th of 17 in the first round and failing to advance, with the women's 4x400 m squad also left behind at 14th in the heats.
Japanese national team captain Daichi Sawano made the final of the men's pole vault, but after clearing only 5.50 he finished 10th of 15.
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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