Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tokyo Marathon Announces Elite Field - Nasukawa and Kipsang Defend

by Brett Larner

click here for complete elite field details

On Jan. 25 the Tokyo Marathon announced its elite field for the race's fourth edition on Feb. 28. Last year's winners Salim Kipsang (Kenya) and Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Universal Entertainment) return to defend their titles.

Tokyo's organizers have done a good job of putting together a solid men's field at the start of the crowded spring marathon season. Kipsang may be back, but the 2:06:48 by Rachid Kisri (Morocco) at last year's Paris Marathon makes him a potential favorite despite a lack of other comparable performances. Six other men in the field have run under 2:08 within the last two or three years, meaning the course record of 2:07:23 should be in danger. Domestic hopes lie with half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku). Sato's 2:07:13 PB against Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) and Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) in Fukuoka '07 makes him the third-fastest man in the field, and his performances at the New Year Ekiden and National Interprefectural Ekiden earlier this month show he is in excellent shape.

The other major Japanese contenders are 2008 Tokyo Marathon runner-up Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and last year's 3rd placer Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota). Fujiwara is wildly inconsistent and impossible to predict, but if he is on he will be up front attacking the leaders. Look for a feature interview with Fujiwara on JRNPremium in mid-February. Takahashi's PB is unimpressive but belies the quality of his performance in gale-force winds at last year's Tokyo. Takahashi made the race last year with a bold move after 30 km and outran 2:04 man Sammy Korir (Kenya) for 3rd. With better weather he should be much faster.

Quite a few men are debuting in Tokyo, and among them three Japanese runners deserve special attention. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin), two young pros, were the stars of the domestic circuit in 2009, bringing gutsy, outstanding performances in nearly every race of the year. 25 year old Okamoto, a teammate of Atsushi Sato's, ran very well at last weekend's National Interprefectural Ekiden and looks primed for a good debut. Kitamura ran 28:00.22 at age 21 and will be running his first marathon just weeks after turning 24. He appeared to sustain an injury during the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden but if he has recovered to full fitness Kitamura could be among the leaders. Takahashi's teammate Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) had a strong 2009 and also looks ready for a good debut.

The women's field is somewhat thin, but the biggest challenges to Nasukawa should come from Ethiopian Robe Guta, Russian Alevtina Biktimirova, and Nasukawa's Japan-based Kenyan teammate Julia Mumbi. Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC), older sister of 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) heads the domestic competition in what is reportedly her last marathon before some time off, along with Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei), a teammate of Yoshimi Ozaki. Also worth keeping an eye on is Team Shiseido's Yumi Sato in her marathon debut.

2010 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field
Men
Rachid Kisri (Morocco) - 2:06:48 (Paris '09)
William Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:06:50 (Amsterdam '99)
Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:07:13 (Fukuoka '07)
Salim Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:07:29 (Berlin '07)
Charles Kamathi (Kenya) - 2:07:33 (Rotterdam '08)
Gudisa Shentema (Ethiopia) - 2:07:34 (Paris '08)
Teferi Wodajo (Ethiopia) - 2:07:45 (Amsterdam '09)
Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B) - 2:07:52 (Fukuoka '03)
Shigeru Aburuya (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:07:52 (Biwako '01)
Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - 2:08:12 (Biwako '03)
Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:08:40 (Tokyo '08)
Erick Wainaina (Kenya) - 2:08:53 (Tokyo Int'l '02)
Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:54 (Biwako '08)
Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:08:56 (Biwako '04)
Julius Gitahi (Kenya) - 2:08:57 (Tokyo '08)
Aleksey Sokolov (Russia) - 2:09:07 (Dublin '07)
Shinichi Watanabe (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:09:32 (Berlin '04)
Kurao Umeki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:09:52 (Berlin '03)
James Mwangi (Kenya) - 2:10:27 (Vienna '07)
Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:38 (Beppu-Oita '09)
Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:11:25 (Tokyo '09)
Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:59 (Beppu-Oita '08)
Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:12:10 (Hokkaido '09)

Debut Men
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 1:30:07 (30 km)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:30:08 (30 km)
Nicholas Kiprono (Uganda) - 1:00:25 (half marathon)
Joseph Mwaniki (Kenya) - 1:01:39 (half marathon)
Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:02:16 (half marathon)
Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:26 (half marathon)
Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:00.22 (10000 m)

Women
Nuta Olaru (Romania) - 2:24:33 (Chicago '04)
Robe Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:24:35 (Hamburg '06)
Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) - 2:25:12 (Frankfurt '05)
Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Universal Entertainment) - 2:25:38 (Tokyo '09)
Julia Mumbi (Kenya) - 2:26:00 (Osaka '08)
Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC) - 2:27:23 (Hokkaido '09)
Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:29:07 (Osaka '08)
Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) - 2:30:58 (Nagoya '08)
Yuka Ezaki (Fukuoka T&F Assoc.) - 2:31:35 (Osaka '07)
Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 2:35:51 (Nagoya '09)
Jing Yang (China) - 2:36:28 (Beijing '09)

Debut Women
Yumi Sato (Team Shiseido) - 1:10:03 (half marathon)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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