Thursday, April 30, 2009

Niiya Outdoes Nakamura at Oda Memorial Meet

by Brett Larner

Aspiring marathoner Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) bounced back from her failed attempt to win March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon by running a 5-second PB to beat Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), Kenyans Felista Wanjugu (Team Aruze) and Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) and several other top Japanese women in the competitive 5000 m at the Apr. 29 Oda Memorial Track and Field Meet. Niiya clocked a strong 15:23.27, the second-best time in the world so far this year, to break her nearly four-year old PB of 15:28.70. Nakamura came in in 15:23.99 with the two Kenyans another second back; all three were less than 3 seconds off their best times. A moderate gap separated the lead quartet from the rest of the field. Niiya's win signals that she has moved on from this spring's big disappointment and is ready to retarget this summer's World Championships on the track.

In another of the Oda Memorial Meet's highlights, women's 3000 m SC national record holder Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC) suffered a rare domestic loss, coming in second to Yoshika Tatsumi (Team Deodeo) as both runners broke the meet record of 10:05.43. Tatsumi took the lead in the second kilometer after an early lead by Hayakari, clocking 10:03.23 with Hayakari close behind in 10:04.99. Previous meet record holder Chisa Nishio (Team Starts) barely missed joining the pair under her old mark as she finished 3rd in 10:05.52.

In the men's events, Kenyans took six of the top seven spots in the men's 5000 m. Nicholas Makau (Team JAL Ground Service) ran a narrow PB of 13:27.49 to beat out the popular and newly-pro Mekubo Mogusu who is still showing the effects of time off following a car crash in Kenya in February which left his coach hospitalized. 2009 Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet winner and High school student Bitan Karoki (Sera H.S.) was a close 3rd. Like Niiya in the women's 5000 m, Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) came back from a disappointing Tokyo Marathon to break up the Kenyan sweep with an a 13:34.67 5th place finish, a PB by over 8 seconds.

In the men's 1500 m, former university champion Yasunori Murakami (Team Fujitsu) broke the fifteen-year old Oda Memorial meet record to take the win in 3:43.30. The hapless Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) was a distant 2nd in 3:46.62 while Murakami's teammate Hiroshi Ino (Team Fujitsu) was 3rd in 3:48.16.

In other noteworthy results:

・Beijing Olympics men's 4 x 100 m relay bronze medalist Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) won the men's 100 m in 10.17 over his Beijing teammate Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu), who clocked 10.20.
・Beijing Olympian Chisato Fukushima (Hokkaido Hi-Tec AC) ran a wind-aided 11.23 in both the semi and final to win the women's 100 m. Runner-up Momoko Takahashi (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) likewise ran a wind-aided 11.24 in both rounds. The Japanese national record in the women's 100 m is 11.36.
・China's Yin Jing set a meet record of 13.40 in the men's 110 m HH.
・Akane Watanabe (Higashi Osaka Keiai H.S.) set a national high school record of 49.10 m in the women's discus.

Complete results from this year's Oda Memorial are available here.

2009 Oda Memorial Track and Field Meet - Top Finishers
Women's 5000 m
1. Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:23.27 - PB
2. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 15:23.99
3. Felista Wanjugu (Team Aruze) - 15:24.48
4. Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) - 15:25.60
5. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui) - 15:31.82
6. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 15:33.95
7. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 15:35.12
8. Shoko Mori (Team Acom) - 15:38.27
9. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 15:49.32
10. Takako Yamada (Team Deodeo) - 15:57.26

Men's 5000 m
1. Nicholas Makau (Team JAL Ground Service) - 13:27.49
2. Mekubo Mogusu (Team Aidem) - 13:29.34
3. Bitan Karoki (Sera H.S.) - 13:32.79
4. Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Cable) - 13:34.51
5. Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 13:34.67 - PB
6. Samuel Ndungu (Team Aichi Steel) - 13:36.69
7. Micah Njeru (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 13:40.09
8. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 13:44.00
9. Kazuharu Takai (Team Kyudenko) - 13:52.36
10. Mitsuyoshi Shirahama (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 13:54.63

Women's 3000 m SC
1. Yoshika Tatsumi (Team Deodeo) - 10:03.23 - CR
2. Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC) - 10:04.99 - (CR)
3. Chisa Nishio (Team Starts) - 10:05.52
4. Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal) - 10:44.58
5. Mayu Hitomi (Team Sekisui) - 10:50.31

Men's 1500 m
1. Yasunori Murakami (Team Fujitsu) - 3:43.30 - CR
2. Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 3:46.62
3. Hiroshi Ino (Team Fujitsu) - 3:48.16
4. Masaharu Nakano (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 3:58.04
5. Yunari Yamaguchi (Team Aisan Kogyo Nagasaki) - 4:00.34

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

'Naoko for Sotokoto Safari Half Marathon'

http://www.eastandard.net/sports/InsidePage.php?id=1144012636&cid=39

'Mara Yamauchi: I Will Be Selfish to Win a Medal at World Championships'

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/5231923/Mara-Yamauchi-I-will-be-selfish-to-win-a-medal-at-World-Championships.html

There have been a lot of articles about Mara since her excellent run in London, but I thought this one was great.

An Interview With 60+ World Record Holder Yoshihisa Hosaka

JRN recently interviewed Yoshihisa Hosaka about his training and background leading up to his 60+ world record 2:36:30 performance at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. The interview and some photos appear in the June issue of Running Times magazine, available Apr. 28.

Hosaka will run the Los Angeles Marathon next month in an attempt to bring his record down to 2:34, his target time for his record-setting run in February.

Update: Read the Running Times article here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jarso and Cheyech Top Hyogo Relay Carnival GP 10000 m - video highlights

by Brett Larner

As he kicks off his second year of professional running, Ethiopian steeplechase national record holder Yacob Jarso (Team Honda) continues to solidify his hold on the title of best African on the Japanese pro circuit. For the second time this month Jarso outkicked rivals Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) and Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) to win, this time with an extended push over the last lap of the Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m in Kobe on Apr. 26. Strong winds and high temperatures following a storm front kept times comparatively slow, but although his winning time of 27:38.67 cleared the World Championships A-standard of 27:47.00 Jarso was unsatisfied. "In my country," he told reporters following the race, "this kind of time is not good enough to make the national team. I must try harder next time."

World Cross Country Championships team member Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) was the only Japanese runner to try to run with the five Africans in the lead pack. "[The foreigners'] pace wasn't so fast today, so I thought I could stay with them," he said in a post-race interview. He finished a distant 6th in 28:28.37 as the top Japanese finisher, missing the World Championships B-standard of 28:12.00. Berlin World Championships marathoner Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) was 8th overall in 28:41.23, nearly a minute off his 10000 m times of last spring and summer. Appearing emaciated in his televised interview, Irifune shrugged off the relatively weak showing and said it met his goals for a track race in the midst of serious marathon training. His new teammate Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) was a surprise DNS.


Cheyech leads Ozaki, Nakamura, Fujinaga, Ogi and Kisaki in the women's Grand Prix 10000 m. Photo sent in by JRN reader Jason Meyeroff.

Kenyan Danielle Filomena Cheyech took down a cast of top Japanese marathoners in the women's Grand Prix 10000 m, running 5 seconds off her best time to win in 32:03.76. Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) was 2nd in 32:13.89, while 2007 World Championships marathoner Mari Ozaki took 3rd in 32:20.92. 2009 Berlin World Championships marathon team member Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) was 7th in 32:58.78, more than a minute off her PB.

In other major distance events results from the Hyogo Relay Carnival's two days of competition:

・Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) outleaned young star Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) to win the Asics Challenge men's 10000 m, 28:20.13 to 28:20.99. Kashiwabara's time was a PB and faster than that run by any Japanese runner in the A-heat Grand Prix 10000 m. With it he was selected for the national team for this summer's World Student Games. Komazawa University ace Tsuyoshi Ugachi was a short distance behind the pair and was likewise under the best Grand Prix domestic time.

・Kenyan Jelliah Tinega (Team Daihatsu) set a new meet record of 15:41.56 to win the Asics Challenge women's 5000 m. Tinega was 30 seconds ahead of 2nd place finisher Takami Nishiyama (Team Shikoku Denryoku).

・New Ethiopian recruit Nahom Mesfin (Team Kanebo) won the men's Grand Prix 3000 mSC by a hair over Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN), 8:42.85 to 8:42.95. Umegae is slated to run next weekend's Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in California.

・Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) had a strong showing in the women's Japan Invitational 3000 m, beating out her Kenyan teammate Christine Muyanga and two of Team Wacoal's best runners with a time of 9:10.70, a 14-second PB.

・High school student Minami Nakaarai (Suma Gakuen H.S.) challenged Kenyan pros Felista Wanjugu (Team Aruze) and Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) in the women's Grand Prix 1500 m, splitting the uprights as she finished 2nd.

・Takeshi Kuchino (Team Fujitsu) set a meet record of 1:49.15 to win the men's Grand Prix 800 m.

Click here for complete event-by-event results from the 2009 Hyogo Relay Carnival. Top results from the major events are listed below. Click linked event headers for video highlights and linked athletes' names for interviews courtesy of Sun TV. The complete set of event highlight and winner interview videos from the Grand Prix events is located here.

2009 Hyogo Relay Carnival - top finishers
Men's Grand Prix 10000 m
1. Yacob Jarso (Team Honda) - 27:38.67
2. Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) - 27:40.32
3. John Thuo (Team Toyota) - 27:44.03
4. Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 27:45.03
5. Mekubo Mogusu (Team Aidem) - 28:08.00
6. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:28.37
7. Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 28:36.19
8. Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - 28:41.23
9. Daisuke Matsufuji (Team Kanebo) - 28:57.05
10. Masayuki Obata (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 29:05.88

Women's Grand Prix 10000 m
1. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) - 32:03.76
2. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 32:13.89
3. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 32:20.92
4. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 32:24.00
5. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 32:29.45
6. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 32:32.43
7. Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 32:58.78
8. Aya Nagata (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 33:00.80
9. Seika Iwamura (Team Daihatsu) - 33:13.27
10. Chika Horie (Team Aruze) - 33:19.20

Men's Asics Challenge 10000 m
1. Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) - 28:20.13
2. Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) - 28:20.99 - PB
3. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Komazawa Univ.) - 28:23.62

Women's Asics Challenge 5000 m
1. Jelliah Tinega (Team Daihatsu) - 15:41.56 - CR
2. Takami Nishiyama (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 16:11.70
3. Sayuri Baba (Team Sekisui) - 16:16.88

Men's Grand Prix 3000 m SC
1. Nahom Mesfin (Team Kanebo) - 8:42.85
2. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 8:42.95
3. Masatoshi Kikuchi (Team Fujitsu) - 8:50.26

Women's Japan Invitational 3000 m
1. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 9:10.70 - PB
2. Christine Muyanga (Team Panasonic) - 9:12.61
3. Tomoka Inadomi (Team Wacoal) - 9:15.84

Women's Grand Prix 1500 m
1. Felista Wanjugu (Team Aruze) - 4:21.55
2. Minami Nakaarai (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 4:22.37
3. Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) - 4:23.39

Men's Grand Prix 800 m
1. Takeshi Kuchino (Team Fujitsu) - 1:49.15 - CR
2. Masato Yokota (Keio Univ.) - 1:50.23
3. Yoshihiro Shimodaira (Team Fujitsu) - 1:50.37

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Atsushi Sato Leads Solid Japanese Turnout at London Marathon (updated)

by Brett Larner

Update: JRN reader Jarno Maimonen sent his outstanding photos from the London Marathon. His blog contains excellent firsthand coverage of this year's race.

Japan-based and trained runners captured much of the spotlight at the 2009 London Marathon. Beijing Olympics gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya, a graduate of Sendai Ikuei High School and former member of Team Toyota Kyushu, missed his goal of a new world record but won the men's race nevertheless, breaking both the course record and his PB with a finishing time of 2:05:10. Based on the outskirts of Tokyo, British runner Mara Yamauchi provided much of the fireworks in the women's race as she broke Japanese-coached Beijing bronze medalist Chunxiu Zhou of China and tried to do the same to German defending champion Irina Mikitenko. Yamauchi had to settle for 2nd behind Mikitenko, but it was an inspiring performance which saw Yamauchi finally break through past 2:25 and come close to her stated dream of a 2:22 as she finished in a large PB of 2:23:12. After losing touch with the lead pair, 2007 London champion Zhou, reportedly sick throughout the week leading into this year's race, sank back to a 12th place finish in 2:29:02.

Thanks in part to a Rikuren rule change which allowed London results to count in the World Championships selection process, this year's London featured four elite Japanese runners, an unusual sight for a major marathon outside Japan. Even more unusually, Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko), an unknown even in Japan, caught some attention as she ran at 2:20 pace with breakaway trio Mikitenko, Yamauchi and Zhou, but by 10 km she was done. Swallowed up by the chase pack by 15 km, she ultimately finished 14th in 2:35:36 and missed her chance for a World Championships spot.

Ahead of her, Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) ran a conservative race. Perhaps too conservative. Already assured of a place on the Berlin World Championships team, she stayed at the rear of the second pack for the entire race and fell behind when Russians Liliya Shobukova and Svetlana Zakharova and others accelerated in the latter stages. Kano finished just out of the money in both place and time, 11th in 2:28:44. She ran London to get some international experience ahead of the World Championships, but such a mediocre result was surely not part of the plan.

The top Japanese woman in this year's race was 8th place finisher Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya). Like Okunaga, Morimoto needed to beat the 2:25:40 mark set by Osaka International Women's Marathon runner-up Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) to make the World Championships team. She gave it a good try, running in the second pack with Kano and going through the halfway point in 1:11:55, but couldn't quite keep it together in the later stages. Morimoto slowed gradually and finished in 2:26:29. Her result means that Akaba will be selected for the Berlin team and, as in last year's Beijing Olympics, Morimoto will be consigned to alternate status purgatory.

The lone Japanese man in the field had better luck. Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) stuck precisely according to script as he worked his way back from the psychological breakdown he suffered in finishing last in the Beijing Olympics marathon. Sato, who holds a PB of 2:07:13, said before the race that he was only intending to go for a sub-2:10 clocking in London, a time which would give him the last spot on the men's team for the World Championships. He ran comfortably in the second pack along with 2007 World Champion Luke Kibet and 2006 London winner Felix Limo of Kenya, Americans Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein, Eritrean national record holder Yonas Kifle and others, going through halfway in 1:03:33. After Kifle took off in the hunt for stragglers falling off the lead pack the group's pace slowed, but Sato emerged as its top finisher as he outkicked Athens Olympics silver medalist Keflezighi for 8th in 2:09:16. Although Rikuren will not formally announce the World Championships teams until May 7, with this time Sato is assured of a spot in Berlin, his first World Championships since the 2003 Paris games.

Complete results for the 2009 London Marathon are available here.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Yamauchi Eyes Marathon Medal'

http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/24042009/58/yamauchi-eyes-marathon-medal.html

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Yuki Sato 27:38.25 at Brutus Hamilton Invitational for All-Time Japanese #3

by Brett Larner



After a year of injury disappointments which kept him out of the Beijing Olympics, Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) has made a definitive comeback. A week after his professional debut in the 5000 m B-heat at the Mt. SAC Relays, the former Tokai University star ran a 13-second 10000 m PB of 27:38.25 to finish 3rd in the New York Road Runners-sponsored Brutus Hamilton Invitational on Apr. 24 in Berkeley, CA. Sato's time was just over 3 seconds off the Japanese national record and is the third-fastest ever run by a Japanese man. Prior to leaving for California he wrote on the Team Nissin Shokuhin blog, "Since these will be my first races as a pro and they're overseas I want to be myself again and do something special." Consider that goal accomplished: the two men ahead of him on the all-time list, Toshinari Takaoka and Takeyuki Nakayama, were both 10000 m and marathon national record holders. The 22 year-old Sato's future looks very bright.

Click picture for more Brutus Hamilton Invitational photos by Victah Sailer.

Although Sato fell 10 seconds behind winner Sam Chelanga (Kenya/Liberty Univ.) and national record-setting runner-up Collis Birmingham (Australia) and missed the Japanese national record due to a lack of a finishing kick, he held off the top two runners from Mt. SAC's 5000 m A-heat, Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) and Anthony Famiglietti (U.S.A.), to take 3rd. Very impressive considering that Barrios and Famiglietti's 5000 m times last week were over 30 seconds faster than Sato's. In fact, doubling Sato's Mt. SAC time, 13:48.71, yields 27:37.42, less than a second faster than he actually ran in the Brutus Hamilton 10000 m.

Sato's performance easily cleared the World Championships A-standard of 27:47.00 and sends him straight to the top of the list of Japanese 10000 m runners in the leadup to Berlin. It also puts pressure on both 5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) and Sato's university-era rival and Beijing Olympian Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B).

Seigo Ikegami and Suehiro Ishikawa in the men's 10000 m. Photo by Randy Miyazaki.

As in Mt. SAC, Sato's teammate Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) was a DNS. Mt. SAC 5000 m A-heat runners Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) and Seigo Ikegami (Team Honda) were also in the Brutus Hamilton 10000 m, finishing far back in the pack in 14th and 15th, clocking 28:07.04 and 28:21.10 respectively. Ishikawa's time broke his existing PB by over 11 seconds, while Ikegami missed his own PB by less than 5 seconds.



After strong showings in the Stanford Invitational 5000 m and Mt. SAC Relays 1500 m, Sato's high school teammate Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) ran an undistinguished 13:41.86 in the 5000 m. Ueno started aggressively, running in the lead behind two pacemakers and then alone through the first half of the race but ultimately placing 8th for his efforts well outside the tight pack of seven who placed ahead of him. A strong kick to overtake two rivals in the home stretch was small consolation. Ueno, Ishikawa and Ikegami will complete their California tour next week at the Stanford University Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational.



In the women's 10000 m, Japan-resident Kenyan Philes Ongori (Team Hokuren) once again came out on top. Despite a difference of only 2.35 seconds in their PBs, Ongori outran American Katie McGregor by over 21 seconds to take her second victory in a week in a Californian meet. Times were reasonably quick overall as Desiree Davila (U.S.A.) and Lara Tamsett (Australia) ran PBs to round out the top four, all of whom were under the current world leading time for the year. Ongori continues to round out into excellent form as the spring season gradually approaches its key meets.

2009 Brutus Hamilton Invitational - Top Finishers
Click event header for complete results.

Men's 10000 m
1. Sam Chelanga (Kenya/Liberty Univ.) - 27:28.48 - CR
2. Collis Birmingham (Australia) - 27:29.73 - NR
3. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 27:38.25 - PB
4. Anthony Famiglietti (U.S.A.) - 27:39.68
5. Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 27:40.10 - debut
---
14. Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) - 28:07.04 - PB
15. Seigo Ikegami (Team Honda) - 28:21.10

Men's 5000 m
1. Robert Curtis (U.S.A.) - 13:29.12
2. Ben St. Lawrence (Australia) - 13:30.18
3. Jorge Torres (U.S.A.) - 13:30.65
4. Scott Bauhs (U.S.A.) - 13:30.85 - PB
5. Jordan Horn (U.S.A.) - 13:31.19
---
8. Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - 13:41.86

Women's 10000 m
1. Philes Ongori (Team Hokuren) - 31:53.46
2. Katie McGregor (U.S.A.) - 32:14.57
3. Desiree Davila (U.S.A.) - 32:25.78 - PB
4. Lara Tamsett (Australia) - 32:27.23 - PB
5. Lisa Koll (U.S.A./Iowa State Univ.) - 32:43.85

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Masato Kihara Aiming for Sub-28 in Pro Debut at Hyogo Relay Carnival

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/rentoku/sports/200904ace/01.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 57th Hyogo Relay Carnival takes place Apr. 25-26 at Kobe's Univer Stadium Track and Field Grounds. A selection race for this summer's World Championships national team, in the wake of the Beijing Olympics this year's Carnival features the debuts of a range of new aces. One of the most eagerly anticipated is Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo).

In his four years at Chuo Gakuin University, Hyogo native Kihara showed remarkable growth. From never once making the top eight in the National High School Championships to being one of the highest placers at last summer's Olympic Trials and likewise on the road in ekidens and half marathons, Kihara has become one of the brightest hopes for the future of Japanese distance running. Yet he still has regrets.

Of last season Kihara says, "I didn't meet even a single one of my goals." Entering his senior year as Chuo Gakuin's star runner, Kihara felt the burden of responsibility in trying to singlehandedly prop the team up. In his ultimate target race for the season, January's Hakone Ekiden, Kihara was the fastest Japanese runner and 3rd overall on Hakone's most competitive stage, but he was more than two minutes behind the new stage record set by his perennial Kenyan rival Mekubo Mogusu (then of Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.).

After graduating in March Kihara joined the famous Tokyo-based Team Kanebo. His mindset about the future is decidely healthy and positive. "I'm really glad to have the chance to keep developing. I want to have the kind of career that won't leave me with any regrets," he says. At Kanebo Kihara has found himself an ideal environment in which to continue his growth, one in which he can train with and learn from some of the best runners in the country. In addition to training under head coach Kunimitsu Ito and alongside Berlin World Championships marathon team member Satoshi Irifune, Kihara will now be supervised by 3000 m, 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka.

Takaoka, who retired from Team Kanebo following March's Tokyo Marathon to take a coaching position with the team, holds the Hyogo Relay Carnival in high esteem. "The first time I broke 28 minutes was at the 1994 Hyogo Relay Carnival," Takaoka says. "I ran with my Kanebo teammate Toshiyuki Hayata, alternating the lead every 1000 m on the way to my 27:59.72. What's special about this race is that you can take its title literally and run it like a relay with famous runners. Here you can learn to think, 'I can win over 10000 m too,' and the impact of such thinking on your later racing lasts." Kihara may have the chance for a run similar to Takaoka's breakthrough as Irifune will also be in the race.

Takaoka has high hopes for the young Kihara. "He's got very, very high ability and his strengths aren't limited to just one or two areas. The most important thing is that he isn't afraid of foreign runners and has the courage to attack them. That sets him apart from the rest of the crowd. I want to see him use it in Hyogo to run a truly spectacular race. In terms of the future, I think he's capable of an Olympic medal and I'll be happy to see it happen."

In last year's Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m Kihara was 5th, the top Japanese finisher. "This is the meet I've done the most often," he says. "I think I've learned even more here than I did in Hakone." In high school and his last three years of university Kihara ran the Carnival every year. "My goal for Hyogo this year is to break the World Championships A-standard [27:47.00]," he reveals. The time is more than 20 seconds better than his PB and shows just how much ambition he has. He won't be alone. Along with Irifune, also in the race are Mogusu (now of Team Aidem), Athens Olympian Terukazu Omori (Team Shikoku Denryoku), and Africans Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Yacob Jarso (Team Honda) and Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.). Regardless of the outcome, Kihara's hometown fans will be lining up to cheer him on as he chases his goal in his first race in a professional uniform.

Tomo Morimoto's Quiet Ambition for World Champs Berth at London Marathon

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/0001853743.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Seizing her last chance to qualify for the Japanese national women's marathon team for this August's World Championships in Berlin, Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) is running the Apr. 26 London Marathon. After being unable to run the Beijing Olympics as the team alternate, Morimoto is quietly determined to make her first World Championships team. "This time I'm going to make it," she says with understated resolve.

At last year's Osaka International Women's Marathon Morimoto couldn't put the kind of race she wanted together. After a slow first half spent in the pack far behind leader Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), eventual winner Mara Yamauchi (U.K.) broke away when Fukushi came within sight. Morimoto gave pursuit but was unable to close the gap to Yamauchi and finished 2nd. Although Morimoto ran a faster time, her teammate Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) was chosen over her for Beijing after winning March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon. Morimoto was relegated to the team alternate position.

"Not making the Olympic team is a pretty unhappy memory," Morimoto says. This time she wants to be onstage without any questions. Her determination shows in practice. Morimoto suffered a longterm injury to the tendons on the top of her right foot before the Beijing Olympics and was only able to resume serious marathon training in February. It has gone well, and she has been able to do almost all the main workouts on the menu. "I got in all my important high-quality training," she says. Her coach Yutaka Taketomi agrees, commenting, "She is exceptionally skilled at focusing on preparing for a key race."

To make the World Championships team Morimoto will have to outdo the strong debut performance by this year's Osaka runner-up Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren). Morimoto says her main goal is "to beat Akaba's time in Osaka [2:25:40]." Along the way there is another runner she's aiming to take down: "The one who beat me in Osaka, Mara." Yamauchi's win cost Morimoto a place in Beijing. Considering that Yamauchi went on to finish 6th in the Olympic marathon, Morimoto outrunning her in London would have a major impact.

Fukushi to Make Comeback in May

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/osaka/spor/200904/24/spor219690.html

translated by Brett Larner

Sidelined since November with plantar fasciitis in her left foot, Beijing Olympics 5000 m and 10000 m runner Kayoko Fukushi (27, Team Wacoal) will make a comeback at the May 15 Kansai Jitsugyodan Track and Field Championships at the Amagasaki Memorial Park Track and Field Grounds in Hyogo Prefecture. Tentatively entered in both the 5000 m and 10000 m, Fukushi will be running her first track races in 7 1/2 months since last September's National Jitsugyodan Track and Field Championships. Team Wacoal head coach Tadayuki Nagayama commented, "Kayoko's injury has completely healed. She's feeling the best she has since the Beijing Olympics."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rikuren to Announce World Championships Marathon Teams May 7

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/f-sp-tp0-20090423-486359.html
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2009042300873

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Rikuren's Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee held a meeting at the National Training Center in Tokyo's Kita Ward on Apr. 23. With regard to August's World Championships in Berlin, committee director Susumu Takano commented, "We're not in a position to discuss our goals in much detail quite yet, but I will say that we expect to improve on our overall performances from the last two years." Japan earned one medal in athletics at the 2007 World Championships, Reiko Tosa's bronze in the women's marathon, and two in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the men's 4 x 100 m relay team's bronze and Koji Murofushi's bronze in the men's hammer throw.

Takano went on to add that the committee anticipates two finishers within the top eight in the World Championships women's marathon and a medal from 50 km race walk star Yuki Yamazaki. With regard to Japanese women's marathoning and the London Olympics Takano told reporters, "We must recover the confidence we've lost at the Olympic level. Through proper leadership and guidance we will cultivate the next generation of young marathoners into becoming more powerful as they mature. We aim to have at least six women capable of breaking 2:25, thereby increasing the overall depth of our athlete pool."

Takano also revealed that the final member of the men's and women's marathon teams for the World Championships will be announced on May 7.

Translator's note: Sunday's London Marathon is the final opportunity for Japanese marathoners to qualify for the World Championships team. If Atsushi Sato breaks 2:10 he will be selected for the men's team; otherwise the decision will be between him, Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon runner-up Seiji Kobayashi, and Tokyo Marathon 3rd-place finisher Kensuke Takahashi. Sato has previously broken 2:10 four times.

Yuri Kano is running London but has already been named to the World Championships team. The other two Japanese women in London, Tomo Morimoto and Mika Okunaga, must break 2:25:40 to beat out Osaka International Women's Marathon runner-up Yukiko Akaba for the final place on the team. Morimoto has broken 2:25:40 in two of her five marathons to date while Okunaga, who has run four marathons, holds a PB of only 2:27:16. Okunaga thoroughly beat Morimoto in March's National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon Championships, 1:12:50 to 1:15:00.

Both Sato and Morimoto likely have a leg up in the selection process in that their coaches, Yasushi Sakaguchi and Yutaka Taketomi respectively, are the heads of the selection committees for the men's and women's teams.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

'Yamauchi Calls for More British Marathon Runners'

http://www.morethanthegames.co.uk/athletics/233529-yamauchi-calls-more-british-marathon-runners

Nittai University Loses Ban Appeal in Marijuana Scandal

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20090422-00000059-jij-spo
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2009/04/23/01.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Apr. 22 the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Association rejected an appeal by Nihon Taiku [Nittai] University to overturn punitive measures the Association had levied against Nittai in response to marijuana use by a member of the university's track and field team.* Nittai had sought to reverse the ruling in an effort to expedite the rebuilding of its track and field team, but the Association chose to leave its original decision in place unaltered.

Despite Nittai having already suspended its entire track and field team for one month, the Kanto Association imposed the draconian measures of stripping the school's long distance running team of its prestigious seeded position in next year's Hakone Ekiden and banning the entire track and field team from competing in Association-sponsored competitions until June 30. Nittai protested that it is unreasonable to so severely punish squads to which the offending student did not belong, but Association head Yoshiyuki Aoba responded, "There has been a great deal of discussion of where the responsibility for this scandal lies, and we do not believe Nittai has adequately handled the situation. This issue is not about one athlete or one division. It is indicative of a problem with the entire team. [Nittai University`s] response to this scandal was mistaken and insufficient, and we have absolutely no intention of changing our ruling."

Nittai University is expected to send its reply to the Kanto Association on Apr. 23.

*Translator's note: The team member alleged to be involved was a pole vaulter. He was never arrested or charged with marijuana use by police after a search of his residence failed to produce evidence. Click here for further background on this story.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yuri Kano to Make International Debut at London Marathon

http://www.nikkei.co.jp/kansai/news/news005972.html
http://sports.nikkei.co.jp/index.aspx?n=SSXKC0474%2021042009
http://www.plus-blog.sportsnavi.com/kmanabu/

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Having already secured a place on the national team for August's World Championships in Berlin, Yuri Kano (30, Second Wind AC) will get an advance taste of world-class competition when she lines up among most of the world's best women for the first time at the Apr. 26 London Marathon.

Kano thought she would win last November's Tokyo International Women's Marathon but she was 2nd after being outrun by Yoshimi Ozaki (27, Team Daiichi Seimei), the younger sister of her Second Wind teammate Akemi Ozaki. Following the final domestic selection race last month, Kano's place on the World Championships team was announced on Mar. 23. "I felt like, 'Finally!'" Kano says. Now, as she faces her first overseas marathon, she is confident. "My training hasn't gone perfectly and I've had some times when I couldn't concentrate, but from here on out I think everything is going to be totally OK."

Kano was born in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture. She went to the top-ranked Suma Gakuen High School, then ran for the powerful Ritsumeikan University team, a matchless pedigree of two of Japan's strongest running schools. A long distance track specialist, she won the silver medal in the World Student Games 10000 m during her third year at Ritsumeikan.

Kano made her marathon debut at the 2007 Osaka International Women's Marathon in hopes of making the 2007 World Championships team. She ran an excellent 2:24:43 but was only named alternate after finishing 3rd. She continued training in case she was picked up for the team, but when all five original members lined up Kano instead ran and won the 2007 Hokkaido Marathon the same month as the World Championships. After the race she experienced serious dehydration and was hospitalized, but she made a full recovery. "I think the experience from that summer is going to help me out this time at the World Championships," Kano says.

Her condition coming into London may not be perfect, but Kano is calm and cool as she sketches out her race plan. "I'm coming in feeling refreshed and I just want to run a smart, controlled race." Kano's coach Manabu Kawagoe adds, "Competing against the world's top athletes will help us find the areas that need improvement. I think she's ready for a very good result." While in Europe for the London Marathon, Kano and Kawagoe also plan to tour the World Championships marathon course in Berlin before returning to Japan on Apr. 28.

Kano's team Second Wind AC is a new model in the professional Japanese running world, a group of world-class athletes supported by amateur runners and sports brand sponsors rather than by a single large corporation. Based in central Tokyo the club counts 650 people among its financial and moral supporters, but in the current worldwide recession it hasn't been easy for Second Wind to continue operating. Kano says, "I want to win a medal." There is no denying that beyond the benefit for her as a professional athlete, a World Championships medal would help Second Wind to pull in additional sponsorship money. From London to Berlin, all eyes will be on Kano as she runs.

In addition to Kano, two other Japanese women, Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) and Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko), are scheduled to run the London Marathon in hopes of making the Berlin World Championships. If one of the two women breaks the time run by Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2:25:40, she will stand a chance of being selected for the team over Akaba.

Translator's note: Tomo Morimoto's coach Yutaka Taketomi became head of the Women's Marathoning Division of Rikuren's new Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee last December shortly before rule changes were announced which allowed results from major overseas marathon to factor into the selection process for the World Championships. Japan-based Mara Yamauchi (U.K.) and Japanese-coached Zhou Chunxiu (China) are also in London's elite field. Click here for complete details on the London elite women's lineup.

Atsushi Sato Heads to London

http://sports.nikkei.co.jp/index.aspx?n=SSXKC0474%2021042009
http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/sports/Sp200904210225.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/p-sp-tp0-20090422-485810.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Beijing Olympics men's marathoner Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) left from Tokyo's Narita Airport on Apr. 21 to travel to London ahead of the Apr. 26 London Marathon. Looking toward Sunday's race and his goals, Sato told reporters, "I'm feeling pretty so-so. The marathon has turned into a speed race recently and I'm sure this is going to be a fast one too. I want to see how big the difference really is."

After earning a place on the Beijing Olympic team with a 2:07:13 finish at the 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon Sato finished 76th in Beijing, last place in the Olympic marathon. London will be his first marathon since then. It will count as a selection race for the national team for this summer's Berlin World Championships, but Sato feels no pressure. "More than making the World Championships team I want measure the gap between my abilities right now and those of the best in the world."

Of achieving his dream of running in the Olympics Sato says flatly, "I didn't enjoy it at all." Nothing went according to plan in his preparations, and he was stiff and uncomfortable during the race. The experience left him with nothing but bitter memories. "I get angry every time I see that 'last place' written next to my name, but my only regret is that I can't do anything to make up for it." The physical and psychological damage from his Olympic run left a lasting mark on Sato and he has had a hard time recovering. In setting his goals for 2009 at the end of last year, Sato decided, "I needed to spend a year steadily coming back bit by bit."

In March Sato was the top Japanese finisher and 2nd overall at both the Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet and the National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon Championships. "I thought [my mind] was about back to normal," he says, "but not yet. In my heart I'm just not feeling it incredibly strongly."

The 2012 London Olympics are still Sato's long-term goal, and to prepare himself he wants to race a lot. In the past he has focused too much on the Olympic and World Championships selection races and as a result been unable to give it 100% in the main events themselves. Up until now, his only overseas marathon experience outside the Beijing Olympics and the 2003 World Championships was the 2005 Chicago Marathon, but Sato hopes the experience of racing overseas more will help him change this trait and build up the confidence that he can run with the world's best.

Sato's three-year road to 2012 begins this Sunday in London. His first step is admittedly modest: "I want to start by breaking 2:10. I think that's about what I can do." A small step for this talented runner, but one which will help to renew his faith in himself and his abilities.

Translator's note: In December Atsushi Sato's coach Yasushi Sakaguchi became head of the Men's Marathoning Divison of Rikuren's Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee. Shortly afterwards Rikuren announced a rule change which would allow results from major overseas marathons to be counted in the selection process for the World Championships team, followed by news that Sato would run the London Marathon. Soon after March's Tokyo Marathon Rikuren announced that Sato will be named to the team if he merely breaks 2:10 in London.

Atsushi Sato set the then-national student marathon record of 2:09:50 in his debut at the 2000 Biwako Mainichi Marathon as a student at Waseda University. He ran 2:08:50 at the 2003 Biwako to make the 2003 World Championships where he placed 10th in 2:10:38. The next year he ran 2:08:36 in Biwako but missed making the Athens Olympic team. After disappointing seasons in 2005 and 2006 he ran 2:07:13 at the 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon to become the all-time 4th-fastest Japanese man. Several commentators including Toshihiko Seko and Atsushi Sato himself have said they believe him capable of becoming the first non-African to run 2:05. Sato is also the Asian half-marathon record holder, with a best of 1:00:25 from the 2007 World Half Marathon Championships.

Japanese-coached Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) is also in London's elite field. Click here for complete details on the London elite men's lineup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Dream Born in Tokushima as Otsuka Seiyaku Launches Women's Team

http://osaka.yomiuri.co.jp/sp_others/20090421ks06.htm

translated by Brett Larner

Based in Fukushima Prefecture's Naruto, beverage maker Otsuka Seiyaku is helping a select crew of young women to achieve their dreams through sports. This month the company announced the formation of a new professional women's track and field team. 2009 Berlin World Championships national team member and world-class race walker Masumi Fuchise leads the initial lineup of five middle and long distance athletes, with additional spots expected to be filled to allow Otsuka Seiyaku to field a women's ekiden team. The new Otsuka Seiyaku team's approval by the Jitsugyodan Track and Field Association is pending, and head coach Tadasu Kono is optimistic about the future as he says, "Especially in times of recession such as these it's important to do something to help inspire the community through sports."

Otsuka Seiyaku founded its men's team in 1990. Athletes who have run under Kono's leadership at Otsuka Seiyaku include Takayuki Inubushi, the first Japanese man to run 2:06 for the marathon. Tokushima is known for the strength of its male runners, but the prefecture's women's team is typically one of the weakest at the National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden. Kono received the OK to go ahead with the foundation of a women's team partially out of hopes that it will help to strengthen the overall level of athletics in the prefecture.

Transferring to the team alongside Fuchise are Miho Noguchi, formerly of Team Hitachi, Ritsumeikan University graduate Rei Miura, and two new high school graduates. Joining Kono on the team's coaching staff is former Team Tenmaya assistant coach Eri Amo, making for a strong base from which to build.

Along with helping to promote its corporate sponsor in ekidens and other races, this new jitsugyodan team aims to help its members reach their individual goals. Coach Kono is aware of his responsibilities, saying, "Through sports I want to show our supporters in the company who might not have been able to achieve their own dreams that there is still hope." "It's so interesting to be part of a group writing its name in history," added Fuchise. Noguchi closed by saying, "I hope this will be a team where everyone can make their dreams come true."

Keizo Yamada Completes Final Boston Marathon

by Brett Larner

81 year-old Keizo Yamada, the 1953 Boston Marathon winner, returned to this year's race on Apr. 20. Yamada successfully finished his 18th Boston in 6:16:56 after a first half of 2:33:29. Universal Sports reports that Yamada intends this year's running to be his last.

A laughably slow women's race gave Team Toto's Tomoe Yokoyama and amateur runner Hiroko Sho some unexpected international camera exposure as they ran at the head of the elite women's pack in the earliest stages of the race. Yokoyama had suffered injuries since winning February's Ome Marathon 30 km road race and hoped only to break 2:40, meaning that the lead pack's speed throughout the first 10 km of the race suited her fine. As the pace crept glacially forward Sho drifted away, but Yokoyama moved to the front and alternated the lead with veteran American Colleen de Reuck. Only nearing halfway, for which Yokoyama clocked 1:19:59, did she begin to lose contact, eventually fading to 2:47:57. Sho ran more evenly and was not far behind in 2:49:37.

Team Chugoku Denryoku's Kurao Umeki ran Boston just shy of a month after a disappointing run in the windy Tokyo Marathon, but his luck did not improve overseas. Umeki, arguably the most prolific overseas marathoner among Japan's professional runners, needed to break 2:10 to have a chance of making the Berlin World Championships team under Rikuren's new selection policy but a 1:06:33 first half meant even this time was out of reach. He faltered dramatically in the wind and hills in the second half of the race, finishing in 2:26:27. Umeki briefly made the broadcast coverage of this year's Boston as he rounded the final corner, waving to cheering spectators along the course.

Japan's wheelchair athletes in Boston had stronger showings than its runners. Wakako Tsuchida took her third Boston title in the women's race, covering the course in 1:54:37 and winning easily by a margin of nearly 7 minutes. Paralympian Masazumi Soejima took 2nd in the men's race behind 7-time winner Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa, recording a time of 1:36:57 to Van Dyk's 1:33:29.

Complete listings of top finishers and searchable results are available here.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, April 20, 2009

Injured Again, Noguchi is "Still Looking Toward Being Completely Healed"

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2009041700970
http://sports.nikkei.co.jp/index.aspx?n=SSXKF0657%2017042009
http://www.daily.co.jp/general/2009/04/18/0001834808.shtml
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/f-sp-tp0-20090417-484141.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/flash/KFullFlash20090421020.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2004 Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) appeared in Ome, Tokyo on Apr. 17 to give a talk as part of her coach Nobuyuki Fujita's nationwide 'Fujita Running Academy' program. Speaking of her future, Noguchi revealed that she is still undergoing medical treatment as she told the audience, "I'm still looking toward the day when I'm completely healed, but I can't make any concrete plans."

After withdrawing from last summer's Beijing Olympics with an injury to her left leg, Noguchi had begun training for a comeback race at September's Berlin Marathon. However, the pain has returned and whether she will be able to appear in Berlin as planned is unknown. Coach Fujita said, "Things aren't feeling perfect yet, so right now Mizuki has completely stopped running. Getting 100% healthy is the goal. There's no cure for [the inflammation Noguchi is suffering in her leg], so we just have to wait for time to take care of it."

Along with massage and other treatment, Noguchi is doing regular aerobic cross-training on a cycle and in the pool to keep her overall fitness, but Noguchi herself admitted, "It's gotten to the point where all I can do is a lot of swimming. This is the first time I've ever had a long time off for a single injury, and to be honest there have been times when I've thought about quitting. I just want to get back on my feet without another relapse and I'm not going to run until everything is back to normal -- if I set any goals other than that I'll just start running again. Times like now when I can't run are the absolute worst."

In response to a question from a fan in the audience about her withdrawal from Beijing Noguchi replied, "We put too much unnecessary stress on one of my legs. I want to apologize to everyone, and I promise that I will keep trying for the London Olympics." Asked for her feelings about the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki setting a new national record of 3086 hits, the women's marathon national record said, "We were travelling so I didn't get to see it." Coach Fujita weighed in, adding, "Harimoto, the one whose record Ichiro broke, was the same year in school as me."

Shibui Cancels Spring Track Debut After Leg Problem

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/p-sp-tp0-20090420-485059.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2009/04/20/08.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2009 World Championships women's marathon team member Yoko Shibui (30, Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) has cancelled her planned spring track debut in the Apr. 26 Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m. Shibui returned to Japan on Apr. 19 following two weeks at a training camp in Kunming, China. Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo head coach Shigeharu Watanabe commented, "Yoko felt some discomfort on the back of her left thigh while training in Kunming on the 15th. She has cut back to just jogging. This is only a precautionary move and there is no serious injury." Shibui's spring debut will instead shift to the East Japan Jitsugyodan Track and Field Championships in Yamagata on May 16 and 17 where she plans to run the 5000 m and 10000 m.

Translator's note: Shibui also sat out last month's Matsue Ladies Half Marathon as a precaution against discomfort in her left knee.

Fujinaga Wins Japan Invitational 3000 m

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2009041900184

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2009 World Championships women's marathon team member Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) ran the 3000 m at the weekend's Japan Invitational Track and Field Meet, winning the distance for the first time. Asked about her time of 9:18, Fujinaga laughed, "I'm still not fast enough." Fujinaga won March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon, her debut at the full marathon. This weekend's 3000 m was her first race since then. Leading up to the World Championships marathon Fujinaga plans to run in the Hyogo Relay Carnival next weekend, followed by the 10000 m at next month's National Track and Field Championships. "Berlin is going to be fast," she told reporters. "To be honest I think I'm fifth on [The Japanese women's marathon] team, so I have to work on my speed before then."

In other domestic weekend track action:

-Naoyuki Daigo (Team Fujitsu) set a meet record of 2 m 28 in the men's high jump at the Japan Invitational, clearing the World Championships B-standard.

-Yukifumi Murakami (Team Suzuki) likewise set a meet record of 80 m 10 in the men's Javelin at the Japan Invitational and cleared the World Championships B-standard.

-Satomi Kubokura (Team Niigata Albirex), a Beijing Olympian in the women's 400 mH, set an Asian record of 37.80 in the women's 300 m at the Izumo Track and Field Meet.

-Men's 300 m national record holder Yuzo Kanemaru (Hosei Univ.) missed breaking his own record by 0.03, clocking 32.29 at the Izumo Track and Field Meet.

-Beijing Olympics 4x100 m relay bronze medalist Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) opened his season with 10.24 to win the men's 100 m at the Izumo Track and Field Meet.

Complete results from the Japan Invitational Track and Field Meet are available here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Surprises in Nagano

by Brett Larner

There were no surprise upsets in the 11th edition of the Nagano Marathon on Apr. 19. Running on a new course, the fastest man in the field, Isaac Macharia (Kenya) bided his time before dropping the other leaders in the final 7 km to take his second Nagano win in 2:11:21, while the woman with the best recent time, Irina Timofeyeva (Russia), finished strong to overtake ailing Kenyan Irene Limika in the final stretch, clocking 2:30:08 for the win. Expected men's contender Masaru Takamizawa (Saku Chosei H.S.) went flat in the second half of the race, leaving the top Japanese man title to debutant Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica Minolta), 7th overall in 2:15:57. Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC), the older sister of 2009 World Championships team member Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei), was the top Japanese woman, 3rd overall in 2:31:18.

Frontrunning the race as he did on his way to victory at last year's Hokkaido Marathon, high school coach Masaru Takamizawa took the race out right on 2:12 pace as a large pack tailed along. Little changed until 20 km, when the lead pack had whittled down to a dozen. Reaching halfway in 1:06:04 Macharia moved up to join Takamizawa at the front for the first time, and by 25 km the Japanese runner had fallen away to 10th, leaving a pack of six foreign runners and three Japanese ahead. Macharia took control between 25 and 30 km, burning off the Japanese runners and Ukrainian Yuriy Hychen to leave five Africans up front. By 35 km he was all alone, sailing on to a 50-second margin of victory over Girma Tola (Ethiopia).

The women's race was a more tactical affair. Akemi Ozaki took the race out at PB pace, running 17:31 for the first 5 km while a pack of four foreign runners stayed behind, clocking 17:47. The chase pack advanced as Ozaki slowed, dropping Russian Tatiana Aryasova and catching Ozaki by 15 km. Aryasova roared back on the way to 20 km, in the lead at halfway with a time of 1:14:40. As the pace began to quicken first Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) and then Ozaki lost contact, on their own before 25 km.

Limika made the big move of the race, clocking 17:03 between 25 and 30 km to open a 48-second lead over the two Russians, who continued to lose ground. At 35 km Timofeyeva was 1:31 behind Limika, while Aryasova had fallen even further back and lost a place to Ozaki. Between 35 and 40 km Limika paid for her early charge, losing most of her lead to a fast-closing Timofeyeva. As Limika slowed to nearly 4:00/km pace Timofeyeva sailed by in the final stretch to steal the win away, and Ozaki came close to taking away 2nd. Like Timofeyeva, Tulu kept herself together long enough to overtake Aryasova at the last moment for 4th.

Detailed results are available here for men and here for women. For 5 km splits visit this site. A one-hour Nagano Marathon highlights show will be broadcast on NHK on Apr. 25 at 2:00 p.m.

2009 Nagano Marathon - Top Finishers
Men
1. Isaac Macharia (Kenya) - 2:11:21
2. Girma Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:12:11
3. Simon Wangai (Kenya) - 2:12:34
4. Gidey Amaha (Ethiopia) - 2:15:01
5. Norman Dlomo (South Africa) - 2:15:45
6. Yuriy Hychun (Ukraine) - 2:15:55
7. Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:15:57 - debut
8. Masayuki Satouchi (Team Suzuki) - 2:16:22
9. Masaru Takamizawa (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 2:17:25
10. Michitane Noda (Team Kanebo) - 2:17:50

Women
1. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:30:07
2. Irene Limika (Kenya) - 2:30:50
3. Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC) - 2:31:18
4. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:34:17
5. Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:34:32
6. Yoko Yagi (Team Suzuki) - 2:36:26 - PB
7. Yukako Goto (Team Kojima Press) - 2:40:50
8. Chihiro Tanaka (Team Daitsu) - 2:41:21
9. Kaori Akagawa (Team Suzuki) - 2:44:59 - PB
10. Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes Shizuoka AC) - 2:45:24

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Nagano Marathon Live Splits

Live 5 km splits for the Nagano Marathon should be available through this site. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. on Sun., Apr. 19.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

'Breakthrough Time for Tola and Ozaki? – Nagano Marathon Preview'

http://iaaf.org/LRR09/news/newsid=50217.html

Surprisingly, there will not be a live broadcast of this year's Nagano Marathon. NHK will broadcast a one-hour highlights show on Apr. 25 at 2:00 p.m.

Ongori and Ueno Shine at Mt. SAC Day Two

by Brett Larner

Four distance races featured Japanese and Japan-based athletes on the second day of the Mt. SAC Relays meet in Walnut, CA.



Former high school and university star Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) showed that he has finally overcome the illness which kept him under medical treatment for most of 2008, running a PB of 3:42.51 to finish 5th in the men's invitational 1500 m. Ueno was also entered in the invitational 5000 m but wisely sat it out.



Kenyan Philes Ongori (Team Hokuren) easily dominated the women's invitational 5000 m, starting slowly and gradually accelerating to grind down her competitors. She finished in 15:23.33 nearly 11 seconds ahead of 2nd place finisher Christin Wurth-Thomas (Nike). Over 30 seconds off her PB, the run amounted to little more than a buildup practice run for the talented Ongori.



In Ueno's absence, Honda teammates Suehiro Ishikawa and Seigo Ikegami, the top Japanese men in last month's World Cross-Country Championships, were the sole Japanese entrants in the men's invitational 5000 m. Each turned in solid if unremarkable early-season performances around 3 seconds of their PBs, Ishikawa 25th in 13:45.92 and Ikegami 27th in 13:50.79.



Ueno's former Saku Chosei High School teammate and university-era rival Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) made his professional debut with Nissin in the men's Olympic development 5000 m. Sato, who holds a PB of 13:23.57, ran in the B-level heat as part of his continued recovery from injuries which have kept him sub-par since last summer. He was 3rd in 13:48.71, his best time since getting injured but one which shows how much ground he still needs to make up to regain his former level. Sato's Nissin teammate Satoru Kitamura, a 2008 graduate of the currently scandal-plagued Nittai University, was a surprise DNS.

Complete results from the Mt. SAC Relays are available here.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Anti-Olympic Protesters Rally as Bid Team Pitches to IOC'

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/20090418TDY02311.htm

Friday, April 17, 2009

Olympian Tamesue Wins Libel Lawsuit Against 'Weekly Shincho' Publishers

http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/shakai/20090415AT1G1504215042009.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Apr. 15, Olympic 400 m hurdler Dai Tamesue won a libel lawsuit against the Shinchosha publishing group for damaging his name and reputation in the company's Weekly Shincho magazine and in its advertisements for the gossip publication. Tamesue sought approximately $450,000 in compensation, but Tokyo court chief justice Minoru Hatakeyama ruled that only Shinchosha's advertisements for its publication and not the actual magazine itself damaged Tamesue's name. Accordingly, he reduced the judgment against the company to approximately $22,000.*

The problem stemmed from Shinchosha's advertisements in subways and elsewhere for the Apr. 10, 2008 issue of the Weekly Shincho magazine. The advertisements juxtaposed the words 'Swindlers Exposed' and the name 'Dai Tamesue,' but the magazine itself did not contain such accusations against the two-time World Championships medalist.

In his ruling on the case, Judge Hatakeyama opined, "The magazine itself did not clearly state, 'The accusations against Mr. Tamesue are certain.'" He ruled that the contents of the magazine pointed out only true and verifiable facts. However, with regard to the advertisements for the magazine, he stated, "The ads went beyond merely trying to sell the magazine and gave the definite impression to anyone seeing them in a train that Mr. Tamesue was being accused of fraud. The actual magazine did not support this false impression." Thus, he found the publishers guilty of libel and awarded the damages in favor of Tamesue.

*Translator's note: Damages awarded in Japanese courts are typically far lower than in the U.S.A. and other litigation-oriented societies.

Hayakari Opens Season at Mt. SAC Relays (updated)

by Brett Larner



Japanese women's 3000 m steeplechase national record holder Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC) opened her 2009 season on Apr. 16 at the Mt. SAC Relays meet in Walnut, CA. Hayakari started aggressively, running in 3rd through a 77-second first lap. She held to precisely the same for the following two laps, clocking 2:34 and 3:51, but slipped backwards through the pack as the overall pace quickened behind breakaway leader Lindsey Anderson (Nike). Falling as low as 11th, Hayakari had a characteristically strong finish to move back up to 8th. Her time of 10:10.18 was far off last summer's national record of 9:33.93 but a good start to her World Championships buildup nevertheless.

Hayakari wrote about her race on her blog shortly afterwards:

The Mt. SAC Relay meet started on Apr. 16 and a lot of Japanese athletes are here. I ran the 3000 m SC in 10:10.18. My self-evaluation is.....maybe it was a little too sloppy, but I don't really care about the time or the result because it was the kind of practice I can only get in an overseas race and I feel good about it. I mean things like how to warm up properly, the tension before a race, being able to finish after jumping over 35 steeples, actually racing against other people, and understanding my current condition and which points need to be improved. Something like that. Anyway, I felt good afterwards. I went to have some microbrew beer with Daichi [Sawano] and Coach Yonekura (in the States, if you're Japanese they really check closely how old you are on your ID!) We talked about how the next time we drink microbrew beer together it'll be in Berlin. That's pretty good motivation.

Complete results from the women's invitational 3000 m SC are available here.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nittai University to Lose Hakone Ekiden Spot in Marijuana Scandal

http://mainichi.jp/select/jiken/news/20090416ddm041040069000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

In response to a marijuana scandal at a training facility in Yokohama involving a now-expelled pole vaulter on Nittai University's track and field team, the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Association headed by Yoshiyuki Aoba informed Nittai on Apr. 15 that the school's long distance ekiden squad will lose its seeded position in next year's Hakone Ekiden. Additionally, Nittai's entire track and field team must suspend all activity for the next three months. Nittai University officials accepted the decision. An official with the Kanto Association commented, "I've never heard of a school being stripped of its Hakone seed like this before."

Nittai University had already placed the 46 members of its track and field team's pole vault and jump squad on indefinite suspension as of Mar. 26 and afterwards suspended the rest of the track and field team through the end of April. The school also elected to dismantle some of its pole vault and jump training facilities. Nittai's ekiden team has won the Hakone Ekiden nine times, including a remarkable five-year streak in the late 60's and early 70's. It finished 3rd at this year's Hakone to earn a seeded position for next year's championship, but after being stripped of its seed the team must try to requalify at October's Yosenkai 20 km Road Race.

Translator's note: It is worth noting again that the pole vaulter in question was neither arrested nor charged by police as they found no evidence to charge him with criminal activities. The new three-month suspension period includes the entire spring track season, the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships, the qualifying race for the National University Ekiden Championships, and the National Track and Field Championships. The school's monthly Nittai Time Trials series, the key spring track series in the Tokyo region and nationwide for professional, university, high school and serious amateur runners alike, has also been suspended. See these articles for additional background on this unfortunate case:

http://japanrunningnews.blogspot.com/2009/04/nittai-univ-track-and-field-team-under.html

http://japanrunningnews.blogspot.com/2009/03/nittai-university-marijuana.html

http://japanrunningnews.blogspot.com/2009/03/nittai-university-coaching-staff-resign.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IayHnA0cGuc

New Zealand Marathon Camp Athletes Return to Japan

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/f-sp-tp0-20090415-483225.html

translated by Brett Larner

The long distance athletes attending the Rikuren Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee's first group training camp returned to Japan on April 15 after two intensive weeks in New Zealand. Beijing Olympian Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) commented, "Thanks to being able to train together with a bunch of other people I've gotten a lot stronger." His twin brother Yuko (Team Konica Minolta) added, "It was hard work what whith so many strong runners there. I'm looking forward to reaping the benefits of all the training we did."

Takahashi, Seko and Asahara Join Welcoming Committee for IOC Task Force

http://sports.nikkei.co.jp/index.aspx?n=SSXKD0679%2015042009

translated by Brett Larner

The International Olympic Committee's task force charged with evaluating Tokyo's bid for the 2016 summer Olympic Games will tour the proposed marathon course on Apr. 17 as part of its four-day examination of the city. On Apr. 15 it was announced that Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi will be part of the delegation greeting IOC members at the marathon course's starting point, the 1964 Olympic Games' National Stadium. Takahashi, Japan's first Olympic women's [sic] marathon gold medalist, will join Toshihiko Seko, the architect of an era of Japanese men's marathoning, in greeting IOC task force head and first African women's Olympic gold medalist Nawal El Moutawakel. Together the two greatest assets of Japanese marathoning will help to illustrate the strong appeal of Tokyo's Olympic bid. The proposed marathon course will travel from the 1964 Olympic stadium to the new Olympic stadium to be built in the Harumi neighborhood of Tokyo's Chuo Ward. Greeting the IOC task force at the intended site for the new Olympic stadium will be Beijing Olympics 4 x 100m relay bronze medalist Nobuharu Asahara.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Akaba and Suwa Headline 2009 Sendai International Half Marathon

http://www.kahoku.co.jp/news/2009/04/20090415t14022.htm
http://www.sendaihalf.com/jp/document/2009news0414a3.pdf

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 19th edition of the Sendai International Half Marathon takes place May 10. Headlining the women's and men's fields are Beijing 5000 m and 10000 m Olympian Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and 2004 Athens Olympics men's marathon 6th place finisher Toshinari Suwa (Team Nissin Shokuhin). Akaba made her marathon debut this year at the Osaka International Women's Marathon, finishing 2nd overall. This will be her fourth time running Sendai. Suwa was 7th in the 2007 Osaka World Championships marathon and continues to be one of the strongest of Japan's marathon men.

In the women's race, last year's runner-up Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) and 3rd place finisher and Sendai native Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) will return. Joining them are 2009 Osaka Half Marathon winner Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) and former world-class race walker Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren).

Other invited men include 2004 winner Kosaka Hoshina (Team Nissin Shokuhin), 2008 World Half Marathon national team member Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) and Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN). Defending champion Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) and James Mwangi (Team NTN) will also run.

A total of 1284 runners are entered in the race. 41 further athletes are entered in the wheelchair division including Athens Paralympics marathon gold medalist Kazu Hatanaka (Hyogo Assoc.) and 2008 Tokyo Marathon winner Wakako Tsuchida (Team Sanofi-Aventis).

2009 Sendai International Half Marathon Elite Field
Women
Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 1:08:11
Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) - 1:08:31
Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 1:10:16
Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:11:03
Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 1:15:00

Men
James Mwangi (Team NTN) - 1:00:34
Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokusho Seiko) - 1:01:30
Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) - 1:01:30
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 1:02:17
Toshinari Suwa (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:02:36
Kosaka Hoshina (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:03:09

Hakone Just a Checkpoint Along the Road to the Top for Akinobu Murasawa

http://www.asahi.com/sports/column/TKY200904110148.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The close-cropped haircut Akinobu Murasawa wore during his days at Nagano's Saku Chosei High School has grown out a little. Since February the high school star has been practicing with the Tokai University team ahead of his graduation from Saku Chosei and entrance into Tokai in April. "It feels different from high school," he says at the outset of his university career. "In university I want to learn how to be a competitor."

Last year was a big one for the 18 year old Murasawa. He was on the winning teams in the National High School Ekiden and National Interprefectural Ekiden, set a stage record of 23:55 for the 8.5 km 5th stage in the Interprefectural Ekiden, and ran on both the 2008 and 2009 World Cross Country Championships junior national teams. He also won the national high school 5000 m, his time of 13:50.86 ranking him at all-time 7th on the Japanese high school list. With such achievements behind him Murasawa approached university recruitment ranked number one in the country. He chose Tokai University because, "[Saku Chosei] Coach Morozumi went there, and he's someone I really respect."

In junior high school Murasawa was a no-name. He went to Nagano's Narakawa Junior High, of which he recalls, "There were only 20 students in each grade, so it was too small to have a track and field team." As a result, he played on the soccer team where in practices he found that he was not very fast during sprint drills. "I didn't have a very good impression of running," he says.

The big change came his second year of junior high school. Murasawa's brother, two years his elder, entered high school and joined his school's track team. The younger Murasawa thought his brother looked cool when he headed off to practice and he began tagging along on his days off from soccer. This grew into running on his own after soccer practice, and then on to entering regional track meets despite officially being a member of the soccer team. He grew to love running and was accepted into the powerful Saku Chosei High School. There, his natural talent blossomed and he discovered his great strength as a runner, his smooth, resilient form.

For universities in the Kanto region the Hakone Ekiden is where runners focus all of their attention and energies, but for Murasawa, "Hakone is just a checkpoint. I'm thinking beyond that to my pro career. From there it's up up up." At the end of that staircase lies the world level.

Akinobu Murasawa - born Mar. 28, 1991 in Nagano Prefecture. 166 cm, 51 kg. 5000 m PB: 13:50.86 - all-time Japanese H.S. #7. 2nd place, 2008 National High School 10000 m. 27th, 2009 World Cross Country Championships junior race.

'2016: Tokyo Under IOC's Microscope'

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?from=rss_Athletics&set_id=1&click_id=174&art_id=nw20090414110634729C713774

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nittai Univ. Track and Field Team Under Suspension Until May in Marijuana Scandal (updated)

http://www.47news.jp/CN/200904/CN2009041101000666.html
http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/shakai/20090412STXKA043812042009.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner (updated 4/15)



In the wake of a scandal involving a now-expelled pole vaulter's alleged marijuana use at one of its training facilities, the Nihon Taiku (Nittai) University track and field team announced on Apr. 11 that the entire team will undergo suspension from competition through the end of the month. The team will miss several important competitions as a result, including its long-distance squad's home meet which was scheduled for Apr. 18 and 19.

Nittai University has kept the 46 members of the alleged perpetrator's pole vault and jump squad on indefinite suspension. The rest of the track and field team was suspended from Mar. 3-5 immediately following the original incident, but with the new academic year beginning in April those in power decided upon re-examination of the details to extend the entire team's suspension until the end of April. The university will also dismantle some of the pole vault and jump squad's training facilities. All track and field team members will be required to perform community service by cleaning up garbage in the neighborhood around the school's campus and to attend drug use-prevention seminars. Nittai University has voluntarily submitted the revised details to the Kanto University Track and Field Association to show that it understands the seriousness of the situation.

Nearly simultaneously with the announcement, Beijing Olympics three-time world record setter and gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica admitted in an interview with a German publication that he had smoked marijuana in his younger days. Although he denied smoking marijuana now or associating with those who do, Bolt told a reporter, "In Jamaica you learn as a child how to roll a joint. Everyone here has tried it. I did too, but I was real young then."

Translator's note: The top three members of Nittai Univ.'s track and field coaching staff resigned in March to take responsibility for the marijuana incident. Despite everything that has happened, the student athlete in question was never arrested or charged with a crime as police were unable to uncover proof of his alleged use after they conducted an extensive search of his residence.

Rikuren Announces New Spring Grand Prix Series (updated)

http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/sports/Sp200904110067.html
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/090410/spg0904102235000-n1.htm
http://www.jiji.com/jc/zc?k=200904/2009041000849
http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/sports/Sp200904140241.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Rikuren has announced the formation of a new Spring Japan Grand Prix Series aligning four of the season's biggest track and field meets in the leadup to August's World Track and Field Championships in Berlin, Germany. The series will consist of the Apr. 18-19 Japan Invitational in Wakayama, the Apr. 26 Hyogo Relay Carnival in Kobe, the Apr. 29 Oda Mikio Memorial in Hiroshima, and the May 3 Shizuoka International in Fukuroi.

The series will play host to a range of Olympians, national record holders and other international-level Japanese athletes. Results in the meets will count toward national team selection for the World Championships. Top entrants inlcude:

Japan Invitational - Apr. 18-19
Hiromasa Tanaka (Team Monteroza) - men's decathlon

Hyogo Relay Carnival - Apr. 26
Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - women's 10000 m
Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - women's 10000 m
Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - men's 10000 m

Oda Mikio Memorial - Apr. 29
Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - women's 5000 m
Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - women's 5000 m
Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - men's 5000 m
Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - men's 5000 m
Hidekazu Sato (Team Toyota Boshoku) - men's 5000 m
Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC) - women's 3000 m SC
Yoshika Tatsumi (Team DeoDeo) - women's 3000 m SC
Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - men's 1500 m
Ruriko Kubo (Team DeoDeo) - women's 800 m
Kumiko Imura [Ikeda] (Sunny Side Up AC) - women's 100 m H
Chisato Fukushima (Hokkaido Hi-Tec AC) - women's 100 m
Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu) - men's 100 m
Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) - men's 100 m
Yuka Murofushi (Team Mizuno) - women's hammer throw
Ikuko Nishikori (Team Izumo Marusan) - women's pole vault

Shizuoka International - May 3
Kumiko Imura [Ikeda] (Sunny Side Up AC) - women's 400 m, long jump
Yuzo Kanemaru (Hosei Univ.) - men's 400 m
Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu) - men's 200 m
Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) - men's 200 m
Daichi Sawano (Chiba T&F Assoc.) - men's pole vault

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mt. SAC Relays Schedule

The Mt. SAC Relays meet in Walnut, CA takes place this Friday to Sunday, Japan time, with a fair number of Japanese athletes and at least one Japan-based Kenyan starting off their track seasons at the meet. At least two sites are promising live webcasts, offering a rare chance to see Japanese athletes in overseas track competition.

Below is a schedule of events featuring Japanese athletes. All dates and times are Japan time. Italicized events are major distance events which do not include Japanese runners but will be worth watching. A complete event schedule is available here. Please note that the dates and times on the official schedule are local California time.

Click here for the official Mt. SAC webcast.

Click here for the Flotrack webcast.

Friday, April 17
10:15 a.m. – Women’s Invitational 3000m SC: Minori Hayakari
10:40 a.m. – Men’s Invitational 3000m SC
11:35 a.m. – Women’s Invitational 10000m
12:10 p.m. – Men’s Invitational 10000m

Saturday, April 18
4:00 a.m.
– Men’s Olympic Development Pole Vault: Sho Watanabe
6:40 a.m. – Men’s Open 100m: Shinobu Ishikawa, Hiroshi Kihara and Shingo Obara
7:50 a.m. – Men’s Open 200m: Hirokazu Taoka
11:20 a.m. – Women’s Invitational 1500m
11:35 a.m. – Men’s Invitational Mile
11:40 a.m. – Men’s Invitational 1500m
11:50 a.m. – Men’s Olympic Development 1500m: Yuichiro Ueno
12:50 p.m. – Women’s Invitational 5000m: Philes Ongori
1:15 p.m. – Men’s Invitational 5000m: Seigo Ikegami, Suehiro Ishikawa and Yuichiro Ueno
1:55 p.m. – Men’s Olympic Development 5000m: Satoru Kitamura and Yuki Sato

Sunday, April 19
4:55 a.m.
– Men’s Invitational 110m HH: Masakui Iida
5:25 a.m. – Men’s Invitational 4x100m Relay: Waseda University
5:30 a.m. – Men’s Invitational Long Jump: Masayuki Horiike
7:15 a.m. – Women’s Invitational 400m: Asami Tanno
7:30 a.m. – Men’s Invitational Pole Vault: Daichi Sawano
8:35 a.m. – Women’s Olympic Development 100m: Mayumi Watanabe
8:40 a.m. – Men’s Olympic Development 100m: Masashi Eriguchi and Shintaro Kimura
10:35 a.m. – Women’s Olympic Development 400m H: Makiko Yoshida

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ndambiri Over Ngatuny in Premium Race 3000 m (updated)

by Brett Larner



Nominally running as pacemakers, Kenyans Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) and Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) outdistanced the ten Japanese runners in The Premium Race 3000 m at the Kanto Private Schools Five-University Track Meet at Daito Bunka University on Apr. 12. Along the way they were challenged only by university star Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.), who surprisingly bridged the gap to the two Kenyans one km into the race, but in the end it was a two-man show with Ndambiri coming out ahead on the last lap after losing to Ngatuny over 5000 m at last week's Kanaguri Memorial. Ngatuny led Ndambiri and Kashiwabara through the first km in 2:34:19, with Ndambiri taking over for the second km, clocking 5:16:13 and dropping Kashiwabara. Ngatuny resumed the lead for the final km, but Ndambiri sped away with 300 m to go to win in 7:50.66. Ngatuny was just a step behind in 2nd.

Managing to stay on his feet after suffering falls at last year's Cardinal Invitational and National Championships, pro 1500 m runner Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) came from behind to overtake a fading Kashiwabara in the final 600 m for 3rd in 8:08.09. Kashiwabara was 4th in a PB of 8:10:44. While his time was not especially impressive, Kashiwabara showed again that he is not afraid to think big and to try to run with the best, a trait which may serve him well as he continues to develop. A notable no-show was Yuta Takahashi (Josai Univ.), alongside Kashiwabara one of the most talented university runners but likewise a DNS at last month's World Cross Country Championships.

In the overall competition between the five universities at the meet, Josai Univ. scored its first victory of the season by dominating the university 3000 m and scoring big points in the 1500 m and 5000 m to narrowly beat out reigning Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo Univ. Despite none of its runners winning a race, beating Toyo was surely a confidence boost for Josai after its DNF at this year's Hakone. Hosts Daito Bunka Univ. were just a hair behind Toyo, while Heisei Kokusai Univ. consigned Jobu Univ. to 5th despite Jobu's Hiroka Matsushima winning the 800 m.

At this very early stage in the season Toyo's fortunes for a defense of its Hakone title look strong. 2nd yr. Hiroyuki Ono showed progression by winning the university 3000 m with an aggressive last 400 m and 1st yr. recruit Koshi Watanabe beat out a score of older, more experienced runners to win the 5000 m. Although Toyo lost four of its Hakone-winning squad to graduation last month, only one, the solid Tomoya Onishi, will be difficult to replace. Watanabe could prove to be a key part of this year's team.

Kanto Private School Five-University Track Meet
Top Results - Click here for complete results.

The Premium Race 3000 m
1. Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) - 7:50.66
2. Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 7:51.13
3. Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 8:08.10
4. Ryuji Kashiwabara (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 8:10.44 - PB
5. Keisuke Tanaka (3rd yr., Josai Univ.) - 8:17.69
6. Yoshinori Murakami (Team Fujitsu) - 8:21.36
7. Akira Kiniwa (Team S&B) - 8:24.62
8. Kosaku Hoshina (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 8:29.49
9. Yusuke Hasegawa (3rd yr., Jobu Univ.) - 8:30.53
10. Akinori Tachibana (Nissan AC) - 8:32.62
11. Hiroshi Ino (Team Fujitsu) - 8:34.78
12. Kazuma Kaikura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 8:35.28
DNS - Yuta Takahashi (4th yr., Josai Univ.)

Overall Team Placing
1. Josai Univ. - 47 pts.
2. Toyo Univ. - 42 pts.
3. Daito Bunka Univ. - 39 pts.
4. Heisei Kokusai Univ. - 19 pts.
5. Jobu Univ. - 18 pts.

Individual Event Winners
800 m - Hiroka Matsushima (1st yr., Jobu Univ.) - 1:56.59
1500 m - Daichi Umeno (1st yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 3:59.51
3000 m - Hiroyuki Uno (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 8:18.86
5000 m - Koshi Watanabe (1st yr., Toyo Univ.) - 14:20.58
3000 m SC - Kyohei Ichio (3rd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 9:15.92
MVP - Ryuji Kashiwabara (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 8:10.44 (3000 m PB)

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved