Sunday, June 3, 2012

Panasonic Aces Kato and Yoshikawa On the Way Up

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At the May 13 Sendai International Half Marathon, Team Panasonic's Asami Kato (21) made news when she won in a PB of 1:11:21.  A week later her teammate Mika Yoshikawa (27) convincingly won the 5000 m at the East Japan Corporate Track & Field Championships.  We talked to these two women who represent the 2011 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships runner-up Panasonic's talented group based in the Saedocho of Yokohama.

Set on the Olympics

Yoshikawa won five-straight national 1500 m titles.  Switching her focus to the 5000 m and 10000 m last year, she is the Panasonic team's star runner.  Winning the 54th East Japan Corporate Track & Field Championships women's 5000 m on May 20 in a time of 15:33.48, she was awarded the meet's fighting spirit award.

"I was focused on placing well to help me visualize Nationals in June," she says, looking back on the race.  "I had just come back from [altitude training in] Boulder right before the race so I was really in ideal condition, but even so I was able to close really hard so I'm happy with how I did."

Waiting right before her eyes is her goal, the London Olympics.  Right now she is completely focused on bringing everything she has to the June 8-10 National Track and Field Championships, which this year doubles as the Japanese Olympic Trials.  "Maybe I don't have much experience, but I still think I'm a contender for both the 5000 m and the 10000 m.  More than worrying about who my rivals might be I'm only thinking about beating my own limitations."

Yoshikawa has already cleared the 5000 m Olympic A-standard (15:20.00) and the 10000 m B-standard.  "Now it's just down to how I place," she says, her confidence in just how good shape she is in slipping through her nonchalant front.  "I've gotten to the point this year where I can think about making my first Olympics.  I want to be in pure peak condition and go take my shot."  Having worked her way up race by race through a career of steady progression, Yoshikawa words show the strength with which she is chasing the big stage.

From a PB to the World Half

Yoshikawa's teammate Kato won the 22nd Sendai International Half Marathon on May 13, all but certainly achieving her goal of a place on the Japanese team for the World Half Marathon Championships (October, Bulgaria).  After running head to head against the talented and experienced Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) until 15 km, Kato pulled away into the lead.  "There was a strong headwind," she says of her move, "but I was watching Miyauchi to see what kind of shape she was in and decided to go for a long surge."  A race about competing became a race about winning.

Kato wasn't thinking about her time but when she finished she found that she had also broken her personal best.  She was overjoyed to have done it in a race that was an official selection race for the World Half Marathon team.  A week later she was 4th in the 10000 m at the East Japan Corporate Track & Field Championships.  "The second half was no good.  I'm not satisfied," she says.  "I've got the Sapporo International Half Marathon in July as a backup, so I want to keep a handle on things and get into shape to run a fast time."

In terms of her role models, her teammate Yoshikawa has become a major source of inspiration for Kato.  Still growing and progressing in her running, Kato is setting her goals high.

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