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Shota Iizuka's Big Day? World Junior Championships Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2010 World Junior Championships in athletics begin tomorrow, July 19, in Moncton, Canada and Japan is sending a solid team with more realistic medal chances than its senior teams typically have at the World Championships level. Japan's best chance for a gold medal may be in the women's 10000 m race walk, where Kumiko Okada's PB of 45:23.83 is well over a minute better than her closest rival Chiaki Asada. Be this as it may, the lion's share of the attention is likely to be on Japan's other legitimate gold medal contender, sprinter Shota Iizuka in the men's 200 m.

Iizuka, a first-year at Chuo University, gained international attention in May thanks to a Youtube video of his stunning anchor leg for Chuo in the men's 4 x 100 m relay at the Kanto Regional University Championships. In that world-class performance Iizuka singlehandedly gave Chuo a one-second margin of victory and the national collegiate record of 38.54. Iizuka went on to win the 200 m at the Kanto Regionals, displaying a weak start but strong closing speed. With the fastest time this season in the World Juniors field, 20.58, Iizuka is the favorite for the gold by a slim margin over Thailand's Suppachai Chimdee. Iizuka is also on the list for Japan's 4 x 100 m relay team where it is only to be hoped that he anchors again.

With full Ethiopian and Kenya long-distance squads in the Junior Championships the Japanese team will be hard-pressed to medal in those events, but perhaps its best chance comes in the men's 10000 m, where Waseda University first-years Suguru Osako and Fuminori Shikata have the third and fifth-best PBs. Osako's former Saku Chosei H.S. teammate Akinobu Murasawa has a distance chance in the men's 5000 m where he comes in with the sixth-best PB, but his lack of closing speed is likely to be a major factor against him if the race proves tactical. Likewise in the women's 3000 m and 5000 m, where no Japanese athletes are ranked better than seventh. Japan's other realistic medal chances come in the men's and women's 400 m hurdles, men's high jump and men's 4 x 100 m and 4 x 400 m relays, making for a total potential medal count of seven to nine.

Below is a listing of the best of the Japanese team, those ranked in the top ten in their event, along with their major competion ranked by pre-Championships qualifying time. For a complete listing of entrants by event, click here.

Men

Men's 100 m
1. Jimmy Vicaut (FRA) - 10.16
2. Dexter Lee (JAM) - 10.20
3. Gook-Young Kim (KOR) - 10.23
-----
7. Takumi Kuki (JPN) - 10.34

Men's 200 m
1. Shota Iizuka (JPN) - 20.58
2. Suppachai Chimdee (THA) - 20.68
3. Shekeim Greaves (BAR) - 20.75

Men's 5000 m
1. Belete Assefa (ETH) - 13:18.40
2. David Kiprotich Bett (KEN) - 13:20.63
3. Moses Kibet (UGA) - 13:21.81
-----
6. Akinobu Murasawa (JPN) - 13:38.68

Men's 10000 m
1. Paul Kipchumba Lonyangata (KEN) - 28:21.0
2. Dennis Chepkongin Masai (KEN) - 28:25.0
3. Suguru Osako (JPN) - 28:35.75
-----
5. Fuminori Shikata (JPN) - 28:38.46

Men's 3000 mSC
1. Jonathan Muia Ndiku (KEN) - 8:19.25
2. Birhan Getahun (ETH) - 8:21.20
3. Abdelaziz Merzougui (ESP) - 8:33.29
-----
9. Kosei Yamaguchi (JPN) - 8:47.94

Men's 400 mH
1. Leslie Murray (ISV) - 49.83
2. Takatoshi Abe (JPN) - 50.11
3. Hederson Estefani (BRA) - 50.44

Men's High Jump
1. Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT) - 2.25
1. Erik Kynard (USA) - 2.25
3. Qichao Jin (CHN) - 2.24
-----
4. Naoto Tobe (JPN) - 2.23

Men's Javelin Throw
1. Till Woschler (GER) - 78.64
2. Dmitri Tarabin (RUS) - 77.65
3. Dean Goosen (RSA) - 75.28
-----
6. Genki Dean (JPN) - 74.06

Men's 4 x 100 m Relay
1. USA - 39.06
2. Germany - 39.33
3. Czech Republic - 39.57
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4. Japan - 39.61

Men's 4 x 400 m Relay
1. USA - 3:03.25
2. Japan - 3:07.04
3. Trinidad and Tobago - 3:07.70

Women

Women's 3000 m
1. Mercy Cherono (KEN) - 8:44.67
2. Layes Abdullayeva (AZE) - 8:49.65
3. Purity Cherotich Rionoripo (KEN) - 9:03.7
-----
7. Haruka Kyuma (JPN) - 9:12.63
9. Kanako Fujishi (JPN) - 9:18.83

Women's 5000 m
1. Mercy Cherono (KEN) - 14:47.13
2. Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) - 14:55.52
3. Go-Eun Youm (KOR) - 15:38.60
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7. Nanaka Izawa (JPN) - 15:50.06

Women's 400 mH
1. Katsiaryna Artyukh (BLR) - 56.88
2. Shiori Miki (JPN) - 57.53
3. Evonne Britton (USA) - 57.61

Women's 10000 mRW
1. Kumiko Okada (JPN) - 45:23.83
2. Chiaki Asada (JPN) - 46:46.94
3. Antonella Palmisano (ITA) - 46:59.47

Women's 4 x 400 m Relay
1. Jamaica - 3:34.41
2. Russia - 3:36.25
3. USA - 3:36.34
-----
9. Japan - 3:41.78

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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