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Nakamura the Star of the Japanese Team on Berlin Day One

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by Brett Larner

Although she only made the Japanese 10000 m squad by default after winning the 5000 m at June's National Championships, Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) turned in the run of her life on the first day of the 2009 World Championships in the women's 10000 m. Nakamura ran a PB of 31:14.39 to finish 7th, making her the all-time 4th-fastest Japanese woman over the distance and Japan's best World Championships 10000 m finish in ten years. Nakamura beat all-time #2 Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) who was 9th in 31:23.49, a SB in a season plagued by plantar fasciitis and other injury woes. The diminuitive Yukari Sahaku (Team Aruze), who unexpectedly beat both Nakamura and Fukushi at Nationals to make the Berlin team, finished last by a minute in 33:41.17.

After finishing 13th in last summer's Beijing Olympics marathon Nakamura vowed to spend time improving her track times before attempting another marathon. In Berlin she took the race out in the lead right on 75 seconds per lap, on pace for a 31:15 with Sahaku, who set a PB of 32:01.80 in June's National Championships, right behind. Two Russians took over in the second kilometer, but Nakamura and Sahaku remained up front with Fukushi sitting back in the field. Sahaku faded away in the third kilometer and lost contact with the rest of the field, but Nakamura stayed right on pace, never fading. Approaching 4000 m she moved into 2nd remaining there as the field moved through halfway in 15:45.19.

Surrounded by athletes from Russia, New Zealand, the U.S.A. and Ethiopia who had all run faster than the Japanese national record, Nakamura never relinquished 2nd, even making a brief surge back into the lead early in the seventh kilometer. When eventual winner Linet Masai of Kenya went into the lead just past 6800 m Nakamura went with her before being consumed by a wave of Ethiopians. When Fukushi went by her at the tail end of the rush to stay in the race Nakamura had sunk as low as 11th, but maintaining contact with the group Nakamura moved into 7th in pursuit of American Amy Yoder Begley with 1200 m to go. The pair raced each other the rest of the way, dropping the rest of the chase pack, but their order did not change as Yoder Begley took 6th.

Having taken the all-time Japanese 4th position over 10000 m, Nakamura's achievement in Berlin is signicant as it relates to her future as a marathoner. She will next take on what is nominally her main event in Berlin, the 5000 m. For Fukushi and Sahaku, their Berlin World Championships experience has come to an end. Sahaku, who with short hair and standing 142 cm tall looks like a junior high school-aged boy, received a roar of cheers as she finished, then a hug which carried her off her feet from the Berlin World Championships bear mascot, then was again lifted off her feet by the bear while being interviewed by a German sportscaster. Although her running was far from her best, Sahaku made an impression which greatly exceeded her size.

In other results (click event for complete results):

-2009 men's 100 m national champion Masashi Eriguchi (Waseda Univ.), runner-up Shintaro Kimura (Waseda Univ.) and Beijing Olympics relay bronze medalist Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) all advanced to the quarter final. Both Waseda runners were eliminated in the quarter final, Eriguchi executing the best start in the quarter final round but Kimura earning a yellow card for taking too long to get into position following the starter's "On your marks," instruction. Tsukahara, the only athlete of non-African descent to make the semifinal in Beijing, repeated the distinction as he advanced to the semifinal with a run of 10.15.

-Juntendo University senior Kazuaki Yoshida advanced to the semifinal in the men's 400 m hurdles with a PB of 49.45. Yoshida led until after the final hurdle, only falling to 3rd in the final meters. National champion Kenji Narisako missed out on advancing, finishing 5th in his heat in 49.60.

-Women's 3000 m SC national record holder Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC), one of only two athletes in the 2009 World Championships to have also competed in the 1991 World Championships, ran a SB of 9:39.28, six seconds off her national record from last summer, but failed to advance to the final after finishing 10th in her heat.

-Women's 400 m runner Asami Tanno (Team Natureal) and women's pole vaulter Takayo Kondo likewise failed to advance past the first round in their events.

-The men's 20 km race walkers had a disappointing showing, Koichiro Morioka finishing 11th in 1:21:48, Isamu Fujisawa 30th in 1:25:12, and Yusuke Suzuki 42nd in 1:30:21.

2009 World Championships - Top Results
Women's 10000 m
1. Linet Masai (Kenya) - 30:51.24 - SB
2. Meselech Melkamu (Ethiopia) - 30:51.34
3. Wude Ayalew (Ethiopia) - 30:51.95
4. Grace Momanyi (Kenya) - 30:52.25 - PB
5. Meseret Defar (Ethiopia) - 30:52.37
6. Amy Yoder Begley (U.S.A.) - 31:13.78 - PB
7. Yurika Nakamura (Japan) - 31:14.39 - PB
8. Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 31:21.42 - SB
9. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 31:23.49 - SB
10. Ines Monteiro (Portugal) - 31:25.67 - PB
-----
20. Yukari Sahaku (Japan) - 33:41.17
-----
DNF - Elvan Abeylegesse (Turkey)

Men's 100 m Quarter-Final
1. Asafa Powell (Jamaica) - 9.95
2. Tyson Gay (U.S.A.) - 9.98
3. Michael Rodgers (U.S.A.) - 10.01
4. Daniel Bailey (Antigua) - 10.02
5. Usain Bolt (Jamaica) - 10.03
6. Dwain Chambers (U.K.) - 10.04 - SB
7. Darvis Patton (U.S.A.) - 10.05
8. Richard Thompson (Trinidad & Tobago) - 10.08
9. Michael Frater (Jamaica) - 10.09
10. Tyrone Edgar (U.K.) - 10.12
10. Marc Burns (Trinidad & Tobago) - 10.12
12. Monzavous Edwards (U.S.A.) - 10.15
12. Naoki Tsukahara (Japan) - 10.15
-----
36. Masahi Eriguchi (Japan) - 10.45
37. Shintaro Kimura (Japan) - 10.54

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Anonymous said…
I was so impressed by Nakamura. I definitely did`t see it coming...so major props to her!

Joe
Brett Larner said…
I was impressed too. She didn't seem to be having much success with shifting her focus to track speed before this. This is the first result she's had which puts her out of the garden variety category of elite Japanese women. Her next marathon should be pretty interesting.
TokyoRacer said…
Well, I loved the run by Sahaku. She kept chugging away and gave it her all the last lap and the crowd responded with huge applause. She got more applause than the winner. The crowd loved her, and rightly so. They should invite her to the Berlin Marathon and she should accept. She is the most popular female athlete in Berlin.

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