translated and edited by Brett Larner
The highlight of the first half of track season, the 96th National Track and Field Championships, is getting set to kick off June 8-10 at Osaka's Nagai Stadium. Doubling as the Japanese Olympic Trials, any athlete holding an Olympic A-qualifying mark who wins their event at Nationals will earn their place on the Olympic team then and there. The day after the Championships, June 11, the complete Olympic team apart from relay squads will be announced.
Having failed in her bid to make the marathon squad, multiple national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (30, Team Wacoal), will seek for her third-straight Olympic 5000 m and 10000 m double. If she is anywhere near her normal strength there is almost no chance she will lose the 10000 m. If anyone can score an upset it will be Hitomi Niiya (24, Team Universal Entertainment). In her 10000 m debut she won April's Hyogo Relay Carnival in a year-leading and Olympic A-standard 31:28.26, so she has the momentum.
The 5000 m won't be so easy for Fukushi to win. Hard-finishing five-time 1500 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) and 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), fast-starting Niiya and negative-split specialist Megumi Kinukawa (Mizuno) are all in the race, making for a wide variety of possible race patterns. Altogether six women have the A-standard, making it almost as competitive to make as the women's marathon squad.
Defending men's 10000 m national champ Yuki Sato (25, Team Nissin Shokuhin) has the fastest PB in the field and is the favorite, but he currently only holds a valid B-standard (sub-28:05.00) time. It's definitely conceivable that A-standard (sub-27:45.00) men Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) and Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) could go 2-3. That case will the Federation choose one B-standard man, Sato, or the two A-standard men behind him? Olympic selection could get tricky.
Former Hakone Ekiden "God of the Mountain" Ryuji Kashiwabara (22, Team Fujitsu) ran 28:25.37 in May, close to his PB but still far from what the best Japanese athletes run on the track. Kashiwabara said his goal for Nationals is "To break the B-standard and win." If he manages that he could just make the Olympic team.
In the men's 800 m, Masato Yokota (24, Team Fujitsu) came just 0.03 seconds short of breaking his own national record two weeks ago with a 1:46.19 clocking at the Daegu International meet. He has the B-standard, but if he hits the hoped-for 1:45.60 A-standard he will deliver Japan its first-ever 1:45. Women's 800 m favorite Ruriko Kubo (23, Team Edion) had injury problems before the season but is still on a different level from any other domestic athlete. Her goal is to become Japan's first women to go under two minutes and hit the 1:59.90 Olympic A-standard.
Check back next week for JRN's Olympic Trials previews and field listings. Complete field listings in Japanese are available here.