Skip to main content

Rikuren Announces Japanese Women's WC Marathon Team

by Brett Larner

The Japanese federation Rikuren held a press conference Apr. 21 to announce the lineup of the Japanese women's marathon team for August's Daegu World Championships and to present the ten athletes on the men's and women's teams to the media. The men's team was announced late last month, but the women's team decision was delayed until this week following the cancellation of the Nagoya International Women's Marathon after the Mar. 11 disasters.

2009 World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) returns to lead the team on the strength of her 2:23:56 win at February's Yokohama International Women's Marathon, accompanied by Daiichi Seimei teammate and former XC skiing national team member Azusa Nojiri who ran a PB of 2:25:29 at last weekend's London Marathon to finish as the top Japanese woman among those relocated to London following Nagoya's cancellation. Both Ozaki and Nojiri are coached by 1991 World Championships women's marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita.

As expected, 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), fresh from a 2:24:09 PB at the London Marathon, was named to the team along with Yokohama runner-up Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu). The surprise came with the final member of the team, as Osaka runner-up Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) was named over Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido), who ran a PB of 2:25:40 in London to finish as the second Nagoya relocatee. While Fujinaga cleared Rikuren's stated criterion of a sub-2:26 clocking in difficult circumstances following Nagoya's cancellation and the disasters in Japan and finished only 11 seconds behind Nojiri, Ito, coached by Rikuren's director of road racing Tadasu Kawano, ran 2:26:55 in Osaka in very windy conditions and was 26 seconds behind Akaba. The selection of Ito over Fujinaga elicited surprise and a series of questions from journalists as to the decision's rationale. Officials said that it was a difficult decision, and that while Ito was impressively aggressive throughout the race, Fujinaga had faded in the final stages of London and was passed by Nojiri in the final km. Regardless of the reasoning, it remains a controversial decision.

Rikuren officials also announced that all ten members of the men's and women's teams would be dedicated their World Championships runs to the Run for Japan charity initiative. Ozaki and Nojiri indicated that they would do the bulk of their training in Boulder, Colorado, while Nakazato said she plans to train in Flagstaff, Arizona. Akaba and Ito said they are still considering their plans. In individual comments, all five runners said they expected heat and humidity to be a major factor in the World Championships race and would be taking that into account in their preparations. "It'll be hot and humid. I don't think it'll be a fast race," said Akaba. "Kenyans and Africans may be faster," added Nakazato, "but we Japanese are tougher. In a difficult, hot race we can hang on until the end." "I'm good in the heat and am confident of my chances," said Ozaki. "In Berlin I won a silver medal, but this time I want gold."

2011 World Championships Japanese Women's Marathon Team

Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei)
Born: July 1, 1981 (30 yrs.)
PB: 2:23:30 - 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon, 1st
Other main results:
2:23:56 - 1st, 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon
2:25:25 - 2nd, 2009 Berlin World Championships Marathon
2:26:19 - 2nd, 2008 Nagoya International Women's Marathon

Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren)
Born: Oct. 18, 1979 (31 yrs.)
PB: 2:24:09 - 2011 London Marathon, 6th
Other main results:
2:26:29 - 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 1st
2:24:55 - 2010 London Marathon, 6th
2:25:40 - 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2nd

Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu)
Born: June 24, 1988 (23 yrs.)
PB: 2:24:29 - 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon, 2nd
Other main results:
2:34:29 - 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, 12th
2009 World Half Marathon Championships - 16th
2009 National Corporate Half Marathon Championships - 4th

Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei)
Born: June 6, 1982 (29 yrs.)
PB: 2:25:29 - 2011 London Marathon, 12th
Other main results:
2:29:12 - 2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 8th
2010 World Half Marathon Championships - 13th
former XC ski national team member

Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku)
Born: May 23, 1984 (27 yrs.)
PB: 2:26:55 - 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2nd
Other main results:
2:29:13 - 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, 4th
2006 Kyoto City Half Marathon - 1st


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Chebii Returns - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) returns to lead the field for the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Chebii is one of three men in the field with recent 2:06 times, his 2:06:07 in Amsterdam two years ago leading Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) to form a clear trio of favorites.

Making up the second pack are four current sub-2:10 Japanese men, 2017 Gold Coast winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei), and Sasaki's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. The addition of sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama in his second shot at the marathon after a failed debut in Tokyo two years ago makes for a formidable quartet of men from 2017 and 2018 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei all aligned in training and talent.

With Japan's depth it's never surprising to see a relatively anonymous runner make a breakthrough and factor into the action. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) was one of the …

Yamazaki, Ndirangu, Kamulu and Shitara Top Weekend Road Racing Action

Snow and cold impacted road races across Japan over the weekend, but at the top level almost every event went off as planned. In his marathon debut, Shota Yamazaki (Yakult) downed two-time defending champ Ryoichi Matsuo and debuting training partner Takumi Honda of the locally-based New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei corporate team to take the top spot at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon in a three-way sprint finish.

Shaking off first-timer Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu) late in the race, Yamazaki did all the work in the lead trio with the Asahi Kasei duo hanging off both of his shoulders. Hitting a bridge with 750 m to go Honda surged into the lead with Matsuo following. Yamazaki fell back, looking behind him with 500 m to go and seeming to have settled for 3rd. At 400 m to go Matsuo went to the front and looked to be on track to become only the second man to win Nobeoka three times, but as the pair rounded the final corner Yamazaki came back with a kick that left both his riv…

In Memory of Ken Young

I'm very saddened to hear of the passing of Ken Young, founder of the Association of Road Racing Statisticians. If you're not familiar with Ken or the ARRS, Amby Burfoot's 2016 piece on him in Runners World, The Endless Toil of the Big Data Guy, says everything you need to know. Back in the early days of JRN, Ken was one of several industry people to contact me after I published JRN's first hit article, 397 Under 70 Minutes: The 20th Ageo City Half Marathon. He wanted verification of the results and, seemingly having missed Ageo before, asked me to research its history and past results.

That soon led to me transliterating results from Japanese road, track and cross-country races for him on a weekly basis, results otherwise unavailable to the outside world except for some already covered by Japanese contributors Ken Nakamura and Shigenobu Ota. For the last 10 years I've spent about 10 hours on average every Sunday night and Monday morning, sometimes Tuesday, someti…