Skip to main content

Kinukawa Back From Zero With 15:09.96 Nationals 5000 m Win

by Brett Larner

10000 m junior national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) has made a resounding comeback from over three years of injury and illness, running a nearly 20-second PB of 15:09.96 to win the Japanese National Track & Field Championships women's 5000 m and clear the World Championships A-standard. Coached by Takao Watanabe, the Sendai Ikuei H.S. head coach who took Samuel Wanjiru from being an average Kenyan teen to a half marathon and junior 10000 m world record holder and who left Sendai Ikuei to become her personal coach, Kinukawa has been quietly working her way back up this season and seemed as surprised as anybody in post-race interviews. "I thought that today if everything went OK I'd go for my PB [15:27.98], but the A-standard...." Written off by many as a casualty before her inspirational performance, Kinukawa's time makes her all-time #6 on the Japanese 5000 m lists and earned her a place on the Daegu team.

Kenyan Bitan Karoki (Team S&B) took the men's 5000 m with the same race strategy he used to win May's Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, jogging in the pack through 2000 m before dropping a 2:33 km to sail away to the win in 13:15.76. The two leading Japanese men of 2011, Kazuya Watanabe (Team Shikoku Denryoku) and 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) were left to battle it out for the domestic championship title, with Watanabe winning the sprint finish over Sato for the second time this season.



Hitomi Niiya (Chiba Pref.), 2011's leading Japanese woman prior to the race, took the race out fast, going from 75 seconds for the first lap to 70 seconds for the next. Not even her Kenyan former teammate Ann Karindi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) could follow at that speed, but as Niiya pulled away Kinukawa likewise accelerated away from the pack. Slowing from national record to PB pace, Niiya's lead over Kinukawa stabilized at roughly 4 seconds. In the second half Niiya continued to slow as Kinukawa held steady, eating up the ground before surging past into the lead on the back straight before 4000 m. Finishing just three seconds off her PB in 15:20.35, Niiya was devastated post-race. Nevertheless, with a B-standard time she has a good chance of being put on the Daegu team alongside Kinukawa thanks to the younger runner's A-standard performance. Her coach Yoshio Koide commented via Twitter, "Niiya was great. She's gotten a lot stronger."

2008 national champion and 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi, another former teammate of Niiya's at Toyota Jidoshokki, was almost an afterthought in 3rd, running a season-best 15:42.85 as she continues her own comeback from injury. Most of the best university runners were flat, with the top performance coming from Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.) in 6th with a 15:49.18 just behind her former teammate Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki). With Kinukawa only 21, Niiya just turned 23 and Kobayashi 22, Japan could be looking at the next generation of women ready to step into the current vacuum among its top talent. Interestingly, all three have challenged the corporate ekiden team system, with Kinukawa getting independent sponsorship from Mizuno after graduating high school and saying she didn't want to spend her time running ekidens, Niiya leaving her team following their move in April to stay with coach Koide and run as an independent, and Kobayashi simultaneously studying in university and running for the Toyota Jidoshokki team, an arrangement which resulted in her being banned from corporate league competition. The next five years should be dramatic as all three move into their prime. As evidenced by the small number of women in this year's Nationals 1500 m, 5000 m and 10000 m, they are needed, none more so maybe than Kinukawa. It seems unlikely that she will follow through on earlier plans to shoot for the marathon in the London Olympics, but with her first national title behind her at age 21 there is still plenty of time ahead.



Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) duly led the men through 2000 m until Karoki's big play. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) and Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) were the only ones to try to follow, with a group of pro men including Watanabe and Sato taking their time working their way back up to the two university men. After they regained contact by 3000 m the Japanese pack's pace slackened and allowed others to catch up, leaving ten in contention at the bell. With the pace too slow for anyone to break the World Championships B-standard of 13:27.00 it came down to a matchup between Watanabe and Sato, the only two Japanese men in the field already holding World Championships-qualifying marks.

Yoroizaka held on for 4th in 13:39.88, just a fraction of a second off his PB. Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota), who ran well in Friday's 10000 m, was 5th in 13:40.54, less than two seconds off his PB after leading the pack in the last part of the race. Defending national champion Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) finished far down the field in 12th, running 13:49.70. Watanabe's defeat of Sato means that Japan may field athletes in all four World Championships track distance events, something that doesn't happen every time. A former middle distance specialist, in his first year seriously racing the 5000 m Watanabe has shown rapid improvement and superior finishing speed. With further improvement and better conditions he may well have a chance of going after the national record of 13:13.20 held by Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) since 2007.

2011 Japanese National Track & Field Championships
Kumagaya Dome, Kumagaya, Saitama, 6/12/11
Women's 5000 m
1. Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) - 15:09.96 - PB
2. Hitomi Niiya (Chiba Pref.) - 15:20.35
3. Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 15:42.85
4. Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) - 15:44.28
5. Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki) - 15:46.57
6. Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:49.18
7. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 15:53.19
8. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 16:01.24
9. Hanae Tanaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 16:19.65
10. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 16:20.01

Men's 5000 m
1. Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Team S&B) - 13:15.76 - PB
2. Kazuya Watanabe (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 13:37.41
3. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:38.19
4. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) - 13:39.88
5. Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) - 13:40.54
6. Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 13:41.99
7. Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) - 13:43.15
8. Takuya Ishikawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 13:44.87
9. Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo) - 13:45.09
10. Takaya Iwasaki (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 13:46.12 - PB

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

yuza said…
I am really happy Kinukawa ran so well on Sunday; it was wonderful to watch and I hope her good form continues.

I am probably expecting a bit too much from her this early in her comeback, but I hope she can produce times like this on a regular basis.

I like Niiya and when she moves back to the marathon (I assume next Spring she will have a crack) she is going to run a very fast marathon in my humble opinion.

Karoki, he is the man.

Brett, do you know why so many women pulled out of the 10,000 metre?
Brett Larner said…
I'll admit to a tear or two when Kinukawa caught Niiya. She's had enough halfway-comebacks that I didn't think she was ever going to really make it. I hope she takes it slow. Niiya ran great and I hope they put her on the team as well. Koide said yesterday that she'll be shooting for A-standard (only 3 sec away) at one of the Hokuren DC meets in a few weeks.

As far as the 10000, I'm not sure that there was one reason, but combined with the 5000 where there were only 12 Japanese starters and the 1500 where there was almost nobody of national level it was a bit alarming. The Asian champs are being held in Kobe in a few weeks so there may be a better turnout of big names there, but even that's hard to see.
yuza said…
Thanks for that Brett.

Regarding Kinukawa, you speak sense, it is best that she takes it slow, but I can not help but get excited for her.

It is a shame about the 1500, but in Japan it just not very sexy.

Most-Read This Week

JAAF Announces Last-Chance Olympic Marathon Standards: 2:05:49 and 2:22:22

We hereby announce the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Marathon Team qualifying standards for the MGC Final Challenge.
men: 2:05:49
women: 2:22:22 These times are one second faster than the fastest times run by Japanese men and women within the MGC Race qualifying period. The fastest athlete under these standards at one of the MGC Final Challenge series races will earn the third and final spot on the Tokyo 2020 team following the two to be decided at September's MGC Race. MGC Final Challenge series races:
Men:73rd Fukuoka International MarathonTokyo Marathon 202075th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Women:5th Saitama International Marathon39th Osaka International Women's MarathonNagoya Women's Marathon 2020 For more information on the overall Tokyo 2020 Olympic team qualification process please click here.
The official MGC site:  http://www.mgc42195.jp/
source press release:
https://www.jaaf.or.jp/news/article/12712/
translated and edited by Brett Larner

10000 m National Championships Lead Weekend Action

It's a busy weekend on the track across the country. In long distance action the main event is Sunday's 10000 m national championships, held this year a month and a half before the rest of the National Track and Field Championships in an effort to help people produce better performances to maximize their world rankings points. The 10000 m will be held in Osaka's Nagai Stadium just after the Golden Grand Prix Osaka meet, which maxes out this time around with the 3000 m steeplechase.

22 women are entered in the 10000 m including 6 of the 7 who have cleared the 31:50.00 Doha World Championships standard and the only one who has cleared the 31:25.00 Tokyo Olympics standard. That would be the currently world-ranked #3 Hitomi Niiya (Nike Tokyo TC), who lapped 2nd place the last time she ran Nationals back in 2013 en route to a still-standing championships record 31:06.67. #16-ranked Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post), jointly #22-ranked Kaori Morita (Panasonic) and Mizuki Matsuda (Daiha…

Weekend Track Highlights

The IAAF World Relays in Yokohama were the weekend's main track action, but the first round of regional corporate championships and a few other meets brought distance action across the country.

The women's 10000 m was the highlight at the Kansai Region Corporate Championships, with Wacoal teammates Yuka Ando and Mao Ichiyama recovering from decent runs at the London Marathon last month to go 1st and 5th, Ando the fastest in 32:43.18. Their fellow MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials qualifier Madoka Nakano (Noritz) was 2nd in 32:50.18, doubling the next day in the 5000 m where she was 5th in 16:07.24. Former Hakone Ekiden rivals and now teammates at NTT Nishi Nihon, Kenyans Patrick Wambui and Dominic Nyairo went 1-2 in the men's 10000 m in 28:41.84 and 28:43.86. Ryota Motegi (Sumitomo Denko) just missed the meet record in the men's 1500 m, winning in 3:44.12.

At the Chubu Region Corporate Championships Kenyans Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Aisan Kogyo) and Macharia Ndirangu