Saturday, October 3, 2009

Joan Benoit Samuelson Appears on Japanese Game Show (updated)

by Brett Larner

1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson (U.S.A.) took time out from her preparations for next month's New York City Marathon to appear on Japanese broadcaster TBS' All-Star Kanshasai variety game show on Oct. 3. On the biannual five-hour show, a panel of 200 celebrities compete for cash prizes by trying to predict the winners in a series of contests starring other celebrities. Samuelson appeared on the Akasaka Go-Chome Super Ekiden segment running a relay with two-time World Championships medalist Masako Chiba and marathon great Mari Tanigawa before running in the show's climax, the Akasaka Go-Chome Mini-Marathon.

A handicap race on a hilly 3-loop course around and through TBS' Akasaka studio, the Mini-Marathon saw Benoit Samuelson square off against Chiba, Tanigawa, defending champion and two-time Olympic marathon medalist Erick Wainaina (Kenya), Wainaina's 'Zeitoku Marathon' TV spot co-star Hiroshi Neko, 'Running Man' Kenji Moriwaki, Miyazaki Prefecture Governor and avid marathoner Hideo Higashikokubara and several dozen other celebrities.

A victim perhaps of an unrealistic handicap, Benoit Samuelson started with Neko and Moriwaki in the final group ahead of Wainaina and appeared to be enjoying herself as she worked forward through the field. Samuelson managed to overtake Chiba but was just clipped at the line to miss out on the top ten, finishing 11th overall. Wainaina likewise lost his title, finishing 3rd overall behind the surprise winner, professional kickboxer Yuya Yamamoto, and last year's runner-up, comedian Nozomu Sato who was 2nd again despite training over 100 km a week for the last six months in preparation for the Mini-Marathon.

Complete results will be available here shortly.

Update 10/6/09: Benoit Samuelson's agent Brendan Reilly sent me his official account of her time on TBS:

1984 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist Joan Samuelson Appears on TBS Television Show in Japan

October 4, 2009
from Brendan Reilly

1984 Los Angeles Olympic women's marathon gold medalist Joan Samuelson visited Japan this past weekend as the guest of IAAF sponsor Tokyo Broadcasting System to appear on the network's autumn "All-Star Thanks Festival 2009" variety show. This year is the 25th anniversary of Samuelson's run that won her the gold medal in the first-ever women's Olympic marathon, a race that marked a new era for women's long-distance running. Samuelson has continued to run and compete hard throughout her life, and is an advocate for life-time running and fitness. Last year at age 50, Samuelson competed in the US Olympic Trials marathon for her fourth time, setting a new US 50+ age group record of 2:49:08.

As part of Saturday night's five-hour long live TBS show, Samuelson joined a number of Japanese celebrities and several elite runners in various contests and quizzes at the network's main studios in Akasaka, Tokyo. During the festive show, 200 of Japan's top actors, comedians, singers and other celebrities compete in an ongoing quizzes and events. The show has been broadcast live by TBS twice a year since 1991, and is one of Japan's most popular TV programs.

Joining in the fun, Samuelson took part in two running races on an 850m course in the neighborhood around the Aakasaka studios. Teamed with two-time IAAF World Championships bronze medalist Masako Chiba (1997 Athens 10,000m and 2003 Paris marathon) and former Japanese ace Mari Tanigawa (winner of the 1991 Tokyo International Womens' Marathon and 1994 Paris Marathon), Samuelson first took part in a relay race against four teams of Japanese women celebrities. A few hours later, that trio of women returned to run 2.5 kilometers individually in a three-lap time-handicapped race against a field of 35 men and women that included additional celebrities and athletes, and also two-time Olympic men's marathon medalist Eric Wainaina of Kenya. Wainaina, who won bronze in Atlanta in 1996 and silver in Sydney in 2000, is a long-time Japan resident who used to compete for the Japan's Konica-sponsored team. For each of the races, the 200 celebrities in the studio had to try to correct predict which team or individual was going to win the race.

"It was the craziest, wildest race I've done in my entire life," said Samuelson. "We ran up and down the hills outside the stadium, ran into the studio and out again, back onto the hilly loop, again into the studio...lots of spectators crowding the course even at 9:00 at night. They had us start with handicaps according to our talents, so we spent the entire race trying to catch up to runners who had started ahead of us. Wild. But it was a lot of fun."

"TBS could not have been nicer to us this whole visit. Toshihisa Eto, the program's producer was great in setting my invitation. And Satoko Kako, the young assistant director who took care of us from the time I arrived until I departed, was wonderful. I made some nice runs around the Imperial Palace every day and met some long-time friends Chris and Lynn O'Donnell and their children. Chris works for in Tokyo for Nike Japan, and it was nice to catch up. It will be a long flight back home, but I'm glad I came over for this. It just goes to show, you're never too old to try a new form of running!"

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

2 comments:

TokyoRacer said...

Who is Kenji Moriwaki and why is he the "Running Man"?
Joan Benoit Samuelson's agent is now former Namban Rengo runner Brendan Reilly.
Since this is a 3-4k race, someone should tell Nozomu Sato that he should be doing speed work and not 100k a week.

Brett Larner said...

Moriwaki is the guy who had the show about running all the way around Japan. Mika and I went to the Phuket Marathon as part of his entourage in June.