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Satoshi Osaki Makes Strong Beijing Comeback at End of Ekiden Season

by Brett Larner

Japan's 2010-2011 ekiden season wrapped Jan. 30 with two high-level men's races, the 65th Meigi Ekiden and the 74th Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden. At the Meigi Ekiden in Nagoya and Gifu, Team Aichi Seiko staged a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Team Aisan Kogyo, spending the first five stages in 5th place before winning by one second thanks to a sensational run from rookie anchor Mahoro Ikeda. 2011 New Year Ekiden national champion Team Toyota, running a mostly JV squad, was only 6th despite a 20:56 stage record run by Chihiro Miyawaki on the 7.3 km Second Stage and a stage best by Fifth Stage man Takamasa Uchida. 2007 World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), who had previously announced plans for a marathon debut this winter, won the 9.8 km Fourth Stage by 37 seconds, running a solid 26:31 but short of his own record from last year's race.

Further south at the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden, Team Chugoku Denryoku took the win over Team Mazda by 46 seconds, running behind Mazda for the first five stages and only taking the lead on the Sixth Stage thanks to a stage best run from Rui Yonezawa. Chugoku Denryoku anchor Mitsuyoshi Shirahama was only 4th on stage time but was far enough ahead of Mazda anchor Fumiaki Tanaka to seal the win. With most of its past aces, including Shigeru Aburuya, Tsuyoshi Ogata, Atsushi Sato and Kurao Umeki, on the verge of retirement Chugoku Denryoku is in a rebuilding period, but its current young lineup looks set to become a leader on the ekiden circuit.

Outside the champion team, high schooler Genki Matsumura (Saikyo H.S.) turned some heads by finishing 2nd overall on the 15.1 km opening stage, running 44:44 to finish one second behind stage winner Koji Matsuoka (Team Mazda). But the real news came with the runner-up on the 11.1 km anchor stage. Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon), who ran a 2:08:36 PB at the 2008 Biwako Mainichi Marathon to take a place on the Beijing Olympics team only to withdraw just before the Olympic marathon with an injury, ran his first race in 2 1/2 years. And ran well. Osaki clocked 31:52, the second-best on the stage, just 6 seconds slower than stage winner Hiroshi Takahashi (Team JFE Steel) but over 31 seconds faster that the third-best man and moving NTT up from 5th to 4th.

Writing on NTT's website before the race Osaki said,
My immediate goal is running in the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden on Jan. 30. I'll only be doing it as a training run, but after a long time out with injury I'm glad to finally be coming back to racing. I couldn't have kept it together without the support I got from everyone along the way. Thank you. I really wanted to run one marathon this season, but we've decided that it would be better to just go for the throat in one of the Olympic selection races next winter. After Beijing I told myself that making the next Olympics was an absolute must, and now we're up to that point. I'm going to hit it hard and fast at the selection race, then once I've got my Olympic ticket get myself into the shape I'll need to run my best at the Olympics. I think the London Olympics are going to be my last chance and I don't want to leave with any bitter memories this time, so all my concentration and hard work in the next year and a half will be on that.
At a flat conversion Osaki's performance at the ekiden converts to a 28:43 road 10 km. Not bad for a 'training run' comeback after 2 1/2 years away. Welcome back.

2011 Meigi Ekiden
click here for complete results
Top Individual Results
First Stage - 12.4 km - Takahiro Aso (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 35:48
Second Stage - 7.3 km - Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) - 20:56 - CR
Third Stage - 6.0 km - Tomoya Shirayanagi (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 17:28
Fourth Stage - 9.8 km - Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 26:31
Fifth Stage - 5.3 km - Takamasa Uchida (Team Toyota) - 15:02
Sixth Stage - 11.8 km - Mahoro Ikeda (Team Aichi Seiko) - 34:09

Top Team Results - 52.6 km
1. Team Aichi Seiko - 2:32:05
2. Team Aichi Kogyo - 2:32:06
3. Team Toyota Boshoku - 2:32:26
4. Suzuki Hamamatsu AC - 2:32:37
5. Team NTN - 2:32:47


2011 Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden
click here for complete results
Top Individual Results
First Stage - 15.1 km - Koji Matsuoka (Team Mazda) - 44:43
Second Stage - 11.3 km - Yuki Iwamoto (Team Mazda) - 32:54
Third Stage - 11.9 km - Takuya Ishikawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 35:23
Fourth Stage - 10.4 km - Hironori Arai (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 30:19
Fifth Stage - 8.7 km - Masashi Kada (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 24:52

Sixth Stage - 15.9 km - Rui Yonezawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 47:13
Seventh Stage - 11.1 km - Hiroshi Takahashi (Team JFE Steel) - 31:46

Top Team Results - 84.4 km
1. Team Chugoku Denryoku - 4:09:42
2. Team Mazda - 4:10:28
3. Team JFE Steel - 4:12:58
4. Team NTT Nishi Nihon - 4:14:55
5. Team Chudenko - 4:15:47

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Anonymous said…
Is Atsushi Sato retiring?

He's been missing for the past 8 months or so.

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