translated by Brett Larner
The 2009 National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships take place this Sunday, Dec. 13 in Gifu. The top 27 teams from across the country will face off over the 6-stage, 42.195 km course.
Last year Team Toyota Jidoshoki took its first-ever national title with a surprise win. This year the team returns a step ahead of the pack as the clear favorite. Its pair of 21 year old aces Hitomi Niiya and Akane Wakita led Toyota Jidoshoki to victory with stage best titles at the East Japan Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden and will again be a major factor in its 2009 Nationals run.
East Japan runner-up Team Hokuren also looks strong, with World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba and national jitsugyodan 5000 and 10000 m double champion Philes Ongori leading the way.
Last year's national runner-up Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's chances largely depend on whether the team's star Yoko Shibui has recovered from the stress fracture that kept her out of the World Championships marathon. Without her the team finished 4th in East Japan, breaking its 10-year winning streak. Can Mitsui and Shibui make a comeback?
Other strong contenders include East Japan 3rd placer Team Universal Entertainment, formerly Team Aruze, and from west Japan Team Daihatsu. World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and 10000 m 7th place finisher Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) are also on the entry list with their teams.
Beginning this year, foreign runners will be restricted to the National Ekiden's shortest leg, the 3.3 km Second Stage. How will this affect the outcome?
The 2009 National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships will be broadcast live on TBS from 11:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Japan time on Dec. 13. Overseas viewers should be able to watch live online for free using the Keyhole TV software available here.
Translator's note: Unfortunately no JRNLive commentary this week either as I am running a XC race that morning.