Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Top 10 Japanese Women of 2010

by Brett Larner

This is the first of JRN's four-part year-end review. Look for the second part, the top 10 Japanese men of 2010, tomorrow, and the next two parts, the top 10 Japanese men and women of 2001-2010 and a look at the history and future of Japanese marathoning, early in the new year.

There is no way around it: 2010 was the weakest year in Japanese women's distance running since it reached the world-class level. For the first time Japanese women marathoners finished outside the top three worldwide ranked by average of the ten fastest times of the year (see the forthcoming part four of JRN's review). Only one woman broke 70 minutes in the half-marathon. Overall 5000 m and 10000 m performances were among the weakest of the decade. To be fair, performances in Asian Games years are typically slower, there was no fall domestic elite women's marathon this year, and many of the major spring races suffered bad weather conditions, but the reality of a slump is still there. In a year which saw Ethiopian women emerge as the world's best, Japan's women are now in the same position as its men, trying to turn things around and retake their position on the world podium.

Nevertheless, there were numerous strong and noteworthy performances throughout the year, even if few were truly outstanding. JRN ranked Japan's top women of the year using a formula which took into account domestic ranking, time, and placing for 5000 m, 10000 m, half marathon and marathon performances. Below are the top 10 women of the year along with an honorable mention who did not meet the strict numerical ranking criteria but was still one of the most dominant of the year.




1. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 283 pts.

5000 m: 15:17.86 - 3rd (Osaka 5/8/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 31:29.03 - 1st (Kobe 4/25/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10 km): 31:26 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 1st
Asian Games 5000 m final: 15:25.08 (Guangzhou, 11/26/10) - 5th, 3rd Asian
Asian Games 10000 m final: 31:55.54 (Guangzhou, 11/21/10) - 4th, 3rd Asian

Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 5000 m: DNF (Niigata, 9/25/10)
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:18.96 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 2nd
Shibetsu Half Marathon: 1:12:25 (Shibetsu, 7/25/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:29.80 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 31:47.56 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 1st
Kanaguri Hai Tamana 10 km: 31:57 (Tamana, 3/7/10) - 1st, CR
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10 km): 31:03 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 1st


The 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon national record holder, 2010 saw Fukushi return to form after two years mostly lost in the wake of her spectacular marathon debut at the 2008 Osaka International Women's Marathon (see video above). After attending a federation-sponsored marathon training camp in New Zealand Fukushi returned to a spring season which kicked off with a course record win at the Tamana 10 km road race and ended with double 5000 m and 10000 m national titles. She skipped her habitual turn on the European summer track circuit to quietly make a return to the half marathon after 3 1/2 years with a win at July's hot Shibetsu Half Marathon. Struggling in September, she came back to do all of the leading the Asian Games 5000 m and 10000 m before being outkicked for the medals in both races. Her year wrapped up with a very impressive stage best at the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships, clocking a faster time than her best track 10000 m time of the year. Things seem to point toward Fukushi making a more serious effort at the marathon, the question being whether it will come ahead of next summer's World Championships or the 2012 Olympics. Or not at all.

2. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 261 pts.

10000 m: 31:38.71 - 3rd (Abashiri, 7/7/10) - #3 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:10:45 - 1st (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #7 Japanese, 2010
marathon: 2:27:34 - 6th (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #6 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10 km): 32:02 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 4th
Asian Games 5000 m: 15:58.85 (Guangzhou, 11/26/10) - 8th
World Half Marathon Championships: 1:11:03 (Nanning 10/16/10) - 10th
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:16.40 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 1st
Shibetsu 10 km: 33:40 (Shibetsu, 7/7/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:41.40 (Marugame 6/6/10) - 3rd
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:31.64 (Marugame 6/4/10) - 2nd


The young Kizaki was the best all-around woman of 2010. She began the year by running her fastest half marathon of the year, 1:10:45, in the first half of her marathon debut in the freezing rain of January's Osaka International Women's Marathon. For the rest of the year she was constantly at Fukushi's side on the track, finishing just behind her in the 5 and 10 at June's Nationals and then beating Fukushi for the National Corporate 10000 m title in September. A strong 10th place showing at the World Half Marathon Championships in October capped her season, after which her condition slipped somewhat for November's Asian Games and December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships. Look for her to return to Osaka next month for her follow-up marathon.

3. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 212.75 pts.

5000 m: 15:24.66 - 2nd (Hachioji, 11/24/10) - #3 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 31:44.93 - 1st (Niigata, 10/11/10) - #4 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10 km): 32:10 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 9th
Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden Fifth Stage (5 km) - 15:38 (Fukui, 11/14/10) - 1st
Nagoya Int'l Women's Marathon - (Nagoya, 3/14/10) - 23rd
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10 km) - 32:29 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 9th


A seasoned track runner, Sugihara had a failed marathon debut at March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon where she was only 23rd. Bouncing back for the fall season she ran excellent times in several ekidens and track time trials leading into December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden, peaking with the 5000 m and 10000 m times that put her into the #3 spot for the year. Running the ace Third Stage at Nationals Sugihara was 9th in 32:10, just seconds from making the top 3 on the stage.

4. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 194.125 pts.

5000 m: 15:26.72 -1st (Kyoto, 4/19/10) - #6 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 31:30.92 - 2nd (Kobe, 4/25/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010, collegiate NR

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's 10 km Road Race: 32:34 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 3rd
Asian Games 10000 m: 32:06.73 (Guangzhou, 11/26/10) - 5th
Nat'l Univ. Women's Ekiden Championships Sixth Stage (8 km): 25:14 (Sendai, 0/24/10) - 1st, CR
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:54.00 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 8th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 33:19.59 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 8th
Kansai Regional Univ. T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:44.57 (Kyoto, 5/21/10) - 1st
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10 km): 32:39 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 12th


Yoshimoto emerged in the fall of 2009 with a win on the anchor stage of the International Chiba Ekiden, then in the spring of 2010 ran a sensational 10000 m debut, a 31:30.92 national collegiate record less than a week after a 5000 m PB. She was off her peak condition through the fall but was ready when she needed to be, anchoring Bukkyo University to the National University Women's Ekiden title with a stage record on the final leg. She ran credibly at November's Asian Games 10000 m, clocking 32:06.73 for 5th before wrapping the year up with a 3rd-place finish behind teammate Kasumi Nishihara at the Sanyo Women's 10 km.

5. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 167.75 pts.

10000 m: 32:09.01 - 1st (Fukagawa, 6/18/10) - #6 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:10:01 - 3rd (Marugame, 2/7/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
World Half Marathon Championships: 1:11:40 (Nanning, 10/16/10) - 15th
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:39.13 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 5th
Hokkaido Marathon: 2:35:42 (Sapporo, 8/29/10) - 2nd
Shibetsu Half Marathon: 1:12:29 (Shibetsu, 7/25/10) - 2nd
Sapporo Int'l Half Marathon: 1:13:33 (Sapporo, 7/4/10) - 9th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:38.43 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 4th
Sendai Int'l Half Marathon: 1:12:53 (Sendai, 5/9/10) - 2nd
Kanaguri Hai Tamana 10 km: 32:43 (Tamana, 3/7/10) - 2nd


Hiroko Miyauchi, one of Team Kyocera's set of elite twins, ran the second-fastest Japanese women's half marathon time of 2010 behind only her sister Yoko. She ran a strong 10000 m in June and finished 15th at the World Half Marathon Championships in October. Look for her to run January's Osaka International Women's Marathon alongside her sister.

6. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 143.75 pts.

half marathon: 1:10:45 - 1st (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #7 Japanese, 2010
marathon: 2:24:55 - 6th (London, 4/25/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Championships Third Stage (10 km) - 31:55 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 2nd
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships: 32:26.25 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 4th
Shibetsu Half Marathon: 1:12:57 (Shibetsu, 7/25/10) - 3rd
Sapporo Int'l Half Marathon: 1:13:30 (Sapporo, 7/4/10) - 7th
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:41.96 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 4th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:36.32 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 3rd
Osaka Int'l Women's Marathon: DNF (Osaka, 1/31/10)


The top woman of the last two years, 2010 marked the year Akaba made the marathon her main focus. Injury kept her from following through on her aggressive first half in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, but in April's London Marathon she ran the top Japanese women's time of the year. In full training for Osaka 2011 Akaba was one of only two women to break 32 minutes on the 10 km Third Stage at the Dec. 19 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships. Akaba is again scheduled to do a spring marathon double in London.

7. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 129.3 pts.

10000 m: 32:15.63 - 4th (Niigata, 10/11/10) - #8 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:10:45 - 1st (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #7 Japanese, 2010
marathon: 2:25:43 - 9th (London, 4/25/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Kobe Women's Half Marathon: 1:11:35 (Kobe, 11/21/10) - 1st
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:43.64 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 7th
Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon: 1:14:32 (Philadelphia, 9/15/10) - 14th
Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon: 1:10:54 (Seattle, 6/27/10) - 1st
Steamboat Classic 4-Miler: 20:40 (Peoria, 6/19/10) - 3rd
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:49.97 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 6th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 33:23.60 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 9th
Osaka Int'l Women's Marathon: 2:26:27 (Osaka, 1/31/10) - 3rd


Along with Ryoko Kizaki, Mari Ozaki was one of the most well-rounded women of the year. Running her best half marathon time of the year en route to a 2:26:27 3rd place finish in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, Ozaki came back in April to improve her marathon time to 2:25:43 in London and followed with a handful of quality overseas performances. A strong 10000 m in October put her into the top 10 overall for the year. She won the final running of the Kobe Women's Half Marathon in November.

8. Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 120 pts.

5000 m: 15:16.15 - 1st (Fukuroi, 9/18/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Int'l Chiba Ekiden Second Stage (5 km): 15:27 (Chiba, 11/23/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: DNF (Marugame, 6/6/10)
Brutus Hamilton Inv. 3000 m: 9:01.39 (Berkeley, 4/23/10) - 3rd

The 1500 m national record holder started 2010 with a year-leading 3000 m in California, then sustained injuries which caused her to drop out of June's National T&F Championships, running a year-leading 15:16.15 in September. She returned in the fall with a year-leading 5000 m followed by a stage best on the Second Stage of the International Chiba Ekiden but was unable to run for Team Toyota Jidoshokki at December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden as she is still under ban from corporate league competition until her pending graduation from university.

9. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 108 pts.

half marathon: 1:09:51 - 2nd (Marugame, 2/7/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's Half Marathon: 1:12:06 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 2nd
Shanghai Half Marathon: 1:14:40 (Shanghai, 12/5/10) - 2nd
Nagoya Int'l Women's Marathon: 2:33:36 (Nagoya, 3/14/10) - 11th
Miyazaki Women's Half Marathon: 1:10:54 (Miyazaki, 1/6/10) - 2nd


The second of the Miyauchi twins, Yoko Miyauchi was the sole Japanese woman to break 70 minutes for the half marathon in 2010. Second place in all four of her major half marathons of the year, she had a disappointing marathon debut in Nagoya in March. Miyauchi will run her follow-up marathon along with her sister at the 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon.

10. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 84 pts.

marathon: 2:27:11 - 1st (Nagoya, 3/14/10) - #4 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's Half Marathon: 1:12:29 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 3rd
Asian Games Marathon: 2:36:40 (Guangzhou, 11/27/10) - 7th
Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon: 1:15:27 (Philadelphia, 9/19/10) - 17th
Sapporo Int'l Half Marathon: 1:11:47 (Sapporo, 7/4/10) - 1st


Kano won March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon and July's Sapporo International Half Marathon in moderate times, but later in the fall she was sub-par, running poorly in September's Philadelphia Half Marathon and November's Asian Games Marathon and only decently at December's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon.

Honorable mention: Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.)

5000 m: 15:25.50 - 1st (Nittai Univ., 12/5/10) - #5 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's 10 km Road Race: 32:26 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 2nd, collegiate NR
Int'l Chiba Ekiden Fourth Stage (5 km): 16:02 (Chiba, 11/23/10) - 1st
Nat'l Univ. Women's Ekiden Championships Third Stage (9.1 km): 28:56 (Sendai, 10/24/10) - 1st, CR
Nat'l Univ. T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:38.19 - 1st, MR
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden First Stage (6 km) - 19:11 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 1st


Nishihara, a double medalist in the 5000 m and 10000 m at the 2009 World University Games, emerged last year from the shadow of top university woman Kazue Kojima only to be eclipsed by her younger teammate Hikari Yoshimoto. She returned this fall in peak form, setting the meet record in winning September's National University T&F Championships 5000 m, taking the stage best on the Fourth Stage of November's International Chiba Ekiden while putting the Japanese University Select Team into the lead en route to its first-ever Chiba win, and setting the collegiate women's 10 km road national record at the December 23 Sanyo Women's 10 km.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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