What was the Japanese men's performance of the year?

What was the Japanese men's performance of the year?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Top 10 Japanese Women of 2011

by Brett Larner

Kinukawa wins the 5000 m national title.

1. Megumi Kinukawa (Mizuno) - 535.5 pts.

5000 m: 15:09.96 - 1st, National Championships, 6/12/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011; #6 Japanese all-time
10000 m: 31:10.02 - 1st, Abashiri, 6/22/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011; #4 Japanese all-time
half-marathon: 1:10:22 - 1st, Shanghai, 12/4/11 - #5 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m (Hyogo, 4/23/11): DNF
East Japan Corporate T&F Championships 5000 m (Kumagaya, 5/22/11): 15:37.50 - 1st
Sapporo International Half Marathon (Sapporo, 7/3/11): 1:12:22 - 3rd - debut
World Championships 10000 m final (Daegu, 8/27/11): 34:08.37 - 17th
World Championships 5000 m Heat 2 (Daegu, 8/30/11): 15:38.23 - 8th
Amsterdam Half-Marathon (Amsterdam, 10/16/11): 1:17:08 - 1st

The sudden return of 10000 m junior national record holder Kinukawa from years of injury and illness this spring was the biggest surprise of the year among Japanese women.  Coached by Samuel Wanjiru's former coach Takao Watanabe, Kinukawa came from behind to unexpectedly win the 5000 m at Nationals in one of the fastest times ever by a Japanese woman.  Less than two weeks later she ran one of the fastest Japanese 10000 m, then debuted in the half-marathon with a conservative effort in 1:12:22 in Sapporo.  Her 5000 m and 10000 m were disappointing, but over the fall Kinukawa began to build up toward her marathon debut with two overseas half-marathon wins.  Kinukawa is expected to run March's Nagoya Women's Marathon in a bid to make the marathon team for the London Olympics.

2. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 502.8 pts.

10000 m: 30:54.29 - 3rd, Stanford, 5/1/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011
half-marathon: 1:09:00 - 1st, Marugame, 2/6/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011
marathon: 2:24:38 - 3rd, Chicago, 10/9/11 - #4 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
National Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage, 10.0 km (Kyoto, 1/16/11): 31:53 - 1st
Shibetsu Half-Marathon (Shibetsu, 7/24/11) - 1:17:19 - 10th
Kumamoto Long Distance Time Trials 5000 m (Kumamoto, 12/10/11): 15:50.66 - 1st
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 10.9 km (Sendai, 12/18/11): 36:00 - 3rd

After a good start to the year with wins at the National Women's Ekiden and Marugame International Half-Marathon, multiple national record holder Fukushi lived through the Christchurch earthquake, then unluckily returned to Japan in time for the earthquake and tsunami that hit her hometown.  Racing sparsely after that, she focused everything into the Payton Jordan 10000 m where she ran the second-best 10000 m of her career, a run JRN readers picked as the Japanese women's performance of the year with 32% of the vote.  Fukushi then had minor surgery that kept her out of major competition until her return to the marathon in Chicago in October.  A favorable result there meant she will line up against national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon to go for the London Olympics marathon team.

3. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 277.5 pts.

5000 m: 15:15.33 - 1st, Nittai Univ., 12/24/11 - #3 Japanese, 2011
10000 m: 31:55.06 - 1st, Niigata, 10/10/11 - #6 Japanese, 2011
half-marathon: 1:11:13 - 4th, Marugame, 2/6/11 - #8 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
National Women's Ekiden First Stage, 6.0 km (Kyoto, 1/16/11): 20:07 - 23rd
Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 5000 m (Stanford, 5/1/11): 15:38.15 - 6th
National Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Kumagaya, 6/12/11): 15:53.19 - 7th
National Corporate Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Tokushima, 9/25/11): 15:31.78 - 2nd
East Japan Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage, 10.0 km (Fukushima, 11/13/11): 32:25 - 1st
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 10.9 km (Sendai, 12/18/11): 36:01 - 4th

A five-time 1500 m national champion, this year marked Yoshikawa's official move up in distance.  A good half-marathon in Marugame in February was followed by consistently decent performances throughout the spring and summer.  When the fall came around Yoshikawa took off, winning a major ekiden anchor stage, breaking 32 minutes for 10000 m for the first time and, in the last race of the year, clearing the London Olympics 5000 m A-standard.

4. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 225 pts.

half-marathon: 1:09:16 - 1st, Sanyo, 12/23/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011
marathon: 2:24:09 - 6th, London, 4/17/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Osaka International Women's Marathon (Osaka, 1/30/11): 2:26:29 - 1st
World Championships Marathon (Daegu, 8/27/11): 2:29:35 - 5th
East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Sixth Stage, 6.3 km (Kumagaya, 11/3/11): 20:58 - 2nd
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 10.9 km (Sendai, 12/18/11): 37:38 - 21st

Although not the fastest, Akaba was Japan's #1 marathoner of 2011, the top Japanese woman in all three of her marathons with a win in Osaka in January, a PB in London in April, and a 5th place at the Daegu World Championships in August.  Setting the second-fastest closing split in the Daegu field, only a tactical error between 33 and 35 km kept Akaba out of the medals.  After some down time she returned in December to set the course record at the 30th Sanyo Women's Half-Marathon.  Not yet officially declared for a spring marathon, it's possible that she will be named to the London Olympic team on the strength of her Daegu performance and bypass March's Nagoya Women's Marathon in favor of an overseas spring race.

5. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 155 pts.

5000 m: 15:22.87 - 1st, Nittai Univ., 9/25/11 - #4 Japanese, 2011
marathon: 2:26:32 - 1st, Yokohama, 11/20/11 - #7 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
National Women's Ekiden Fourth Stage, 4.0 km (Kyoto, 1/16/11): 12:52 - 2nd
Osaka International Women's Marathon (Osaka, 1/30/11): 2:29:35 - 5th
Shibetsu 10 km (Shibetsu, 7/24/11): 34:13 - 1st
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Fifth Stage, 10.0 km (Sendai, 12/18/11): 32:57 - 3rd

Kizaki ran below expecation at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon and was mostly out of competition until the fall apart from a win at the Shibetsu 10 km road race in July. Coming back in September with an excellent 5000 m PB, she blew away course record holder and defending champion Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) with an impressive last kick to win the first London Olympics selection race, November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon.  Unfortunately her time of 2:26:32, while the seventh-best of the year for Japanese women, will likely prove insufficient to earn her an Olympic spot.

6. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 148.5 pts.

10000 m: 32:15.09 - 2nd, Abashiri, 6/22/11 - #9 Japanese, 2011
half-marathon: 1:09:23 - 2nd, Sanyo, 12/23/11 - #3 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Osaka International Women's Marathon (Osaka, 1/30/11): 2:36:43 - 8th
Kansai Corporate Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Tokushima, 5/13/11): 32:40.14 - 1st
Sapporo International Half Marathon (Sapporo, 7/3/11): 1:13:27 - 6th
Shibetsu Half Marathon (Shibetsu, 7/24/11): 1:13:06 - 1st
Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon (Virginia Beach, 9/4/11): 1:11:48 - 1st
West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 10.2 km (Fukuoka, 10/23/11): 33:27 - 6th
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 10.9 km (Sendai, 12/18/11): 36:20 - 6th

Japan's #1 half-marathoner of 2010, Miyauchi was solid throughout the year apart from her attempts at the marathon.  She recorded half-marathon wins in Shibetsu and Virginia Beach before setting a PB at December's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon, just missing the old course record as she tried to run down leader Akaba.  On paper she should be scratching at 2:25 for the marathon, but it remains to be seen whether she or her identical twin Hiroko Miyauchi will realize that potential.

7. Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 130 pts.

marathon: 2:23:56 - 1st, Yokohama, 2/20/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
East Japan Corporate Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Kumagaya, 5/22/11): 15:40.67 - 3rd
Steamboat Classic 4-Miler (Peoria, 6/18/11): 20:52 - 3rd
World Championships Marathon (Daegu, 8/27/11): 2:32:31 - 18th
East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Sixth Stage, 6.3 km (Kumagaya, 11/3/11): 20:41 - 1st
Yokohama International Women's Marathon (Yokohama, 11/20/11): 2:26:49 - 2nd
National Corporate Women's Ekiden First Stage, 7.0 km (Sendai, 12/18/11): 22:17 - 1st

2009 World Championships silver medalist Ozaki looked good for the World Championships after winning Yokohama in February in 2:23:56, a course record and the fastest time of the year by a Japanese woman.  Daegu did not work out, and her quick turnaround to Yokohama in November likewise did not as planned as she ran into anemia issues in training and could not keep up with Kizaki's last kick.  Immediately after Yokohama she virtually spat out that she was not going to try again for the London Olympic team, but after a stage win four weeks later at the National Corporate Women's Ekiden she indicated that it's pretty likely she will line up in Nagoya in March.

8. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 122.5 pts.

5000 m: 15:33.89 - 4th, National Corporate Championships, 9/24/11 - #10 Japanese, 2011
10000 m: 31:43.25 - 1st, Nittai Univ., 12/24/11 - #4 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Fukuoka International XC Meet Senior 6 km (Fukuoka, 2/26/11): 19:28 - 2nd
World XC Championships Senior 8 km (Punta Umbria, 3/20/11): 27:27 - 48th
Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m (Stanford, 5/1/11): 32:14.71 - 10th
East Japan Corporate Track & Field Championships 3000 m (Kumagaya, 5/22/11): 9:21.21 - 2nd
National Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumagaya, 6/10/11): 33:06.05 - 6th
Aviva UK Trials 10000 m (Birmingham, 7/30/11): 33:46.12 - 2nd
East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 12.2 km (Kumagaya, 11/3/11): 39:12 - 2nd
East Japan Women's Ekiden First Stage, 6.0 km (Fukushima, 11/13/11): 19:04 - 1st
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 10.9 km (Sendai, 12/18/11): 35:49 - 2nd

One of the purest ekiden specialists on the scene right now, after a passable spring Shimizu was solid on both track and road throughout the fall.  Her year culminated with an Olympic A-standard 10000 m win at Nittai Univ., so Shimizu is likely to be a name to remember in the run-up to London.

9. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 121 pts.

5000 m: 15:30.94 - 3rd, National Sports Festival, 10/7/11 - #7 Japanese, 2011
10000 m: 31:45.82 - 2nd, Hyogo, 4/24/11 - #5 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
National Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage, 10.0 km (Kyoto, 1/16/11): 32:51 - 4th
Chugoku Women's Ekiden First Stage, 5.8 km (Hiroshima, 2/13/11): 18:58 - 1st
National Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumagaya, 6/10/11): 32:25.77 - 3rd
Kyoto Prefecture Track & Field Championships 3000 m (Kyoto, 7/17/11): 9:14.75 - 1st
World Championships 10000 m (Daegu, 8/27/11): 32:32.22 - 14th
National University Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumamoto, 9/9/11): 33:26.67 - 3rd
Kansai University Women's Ekiden Fourth Stage, 6.5 km (Kobe, 9/24/11): 20:52 - 1st
National University Women's Ekiden Third Stage, 9.1 km (Sendai, 10/23/11): 30:06 - 1st
Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden Sixth Stage, 8.0 km (Fukui, 11/13/11): 25:56 - 1st
International Chiba Ekiden Fourth Stage, 5.0 km (Chiba, 11/23/11): 15:49 - 2nd

The collegiate 10000 m national record holder, Yoshimoto was extremely consistent throughout the year, finishing in the top three in all but two of her major races.  Her spring season saw her start off by just missing the Olympic A-standard in Hyogo, but unfortunately she was not able to knock any more off that mark later in the year.  She performed poorly at the World Championships but came back for a strong fall ekiden season.

10. Hitomi Niiya (Sakura AC) - 113.4 pts.

5000 m: 15:13.12 - 2nd, Shibetsu, 6/29/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011; #10 Japanese all-time

Other major performances:
National Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage, 10.0 km (Kyoto, 1/16/11): 32:22 - 3rd
Chiba International XC Meet Senior 8 km (Chiba, 2/13/11): 25:53 - 1st
Fukuoka International XC Meet Senior 6 km (Fukuoka, 2/26/11): 19:09 - 1st
World XC Championships Senior 8 km (Punta Umbria, 3/20/11): 26:43 - 26th
Oda Memorial 5000 m (Hiroshima, 4/29/11): 15:17.84 - 2nd
National Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Kumagaya, 6/12/11): 15:20.35 - 2nd
Asian Athletics Championships 5000 m (Kobe, 7/9/11): 15:34.19 - 2nd
World Championships 5000 m Heat 1 (Daegu, 8/30/11): 15:31.09 - 7th
World Championships 5000 m Final (Daegu, 9/2/11): 15:41.67 - 13th
National Sports Festival 5000 m (Yamaguchi, 10/7/11): 15:32.92 - 4th
International Chiba Ekiden Sixth Stage, 7.195 km (Chiba, 11/23/11): 22:36 - 1st

Niiya, who won the 2007 Tokyo Marathon in her debut at age 18, has had one of the stranger career years among Japanese women.  A member of the Toyota Jidoshokki team, one of two Chiba-based teams coached by Yoshio Koide, she was fired for wanting to remain with Koide when the team relocated westward following March's disasters.  Running for a time in a Chiba singlet, in the summer Niiya posted a picture of herself wearing a Universal Entertainment uniform, the other team coached by Koide, but was registered at all subsequent races as belonging to Sakura AC, Koide's management company, rather than to Universal.  In terms of her running, Niiya was excellent virtually throughout the year, her 25:53 win at February's Chiba International XC Meet the most underappreciated performance this year and JRN editors' pick for Japanese women's run of the year.  Compare her time and 40-second margin of victory to Shalane Flanagan's winning time and margin on the much easier USATF XC championship course and it's easy to see why.  Niiya had a heartbreaking loss to Kinukawa in the Nationals 5000 m but came back a few weeks later to make the all-time Japanese top ten with an Olympic A-standard 15:13.12.  Although her World Championships performance was not spectacular, she had the distinction of being the only member of the Japanese distance contingent to make it out of the heats.

Honorable Mention: Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei)

marathon: 2:25:29 - 12th, London, 4/17/11 - #5 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
World Championships Marathon (Daegu, 8/27/11): 2:33:42 - 19th

A former national team-level pro XC skiier and champion mountain racer, Nojiri receives an honorable mention on the strength of her two marathons this year.  Hoping to make the Daegu team alongside her teammate Ozaki, Nojiri was scheduled to run March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon until the race was cancelled in the aftermath of the disasters.  She endured refocusing on the Nagano Marathon, having it cancelled, and focusing again on carrying over her fitness and concentration for another month to run the London Marathon.  In London she ran a PB to make the Daegu team by catching veteran Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) just before the finish.  In Daegu, Nojiri was the one who got the race moving after a slow first 15 km by surging away from the field and forcing them to catch up to her, an ultimately failed move but one gutsy enough to get her a thumbs up for not being willing to just sit passively in the pack.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Brett!
You have written several times that only a tactical error cost Akaba a medal in the world championships(as a positive statement).
Looking at the split times I am not at all convinced this is the case so I´m wondering whether this belief that Akaba might have or even definitely would have won a medal if she had responded differently to that surge is something that is widely agreed upon in Japan.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Brett Larner said...

I wasn't in Japan at the time of the race or for a few weeks afterward so I'm not sure what the domestic media response was. That's my view having watched the race several times and looked at the splits closely.