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Miyawaki and Miyauchi Lead Japanese Teams at World Half Marathon Championships

by Brett Larner

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Barring last-minute withdrawals Japan will be sending full squads of five to this Saturday's World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria.  The men's team is particularly strong, with three of Japan's all-time top ten half marathoners scheduled to line up.  21-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) leads the way, having won his debut at March's National Corporate Half Marathon Championships in 1:00:53, the third-best time ever by a Japanese man on an unaided course.  Right behind him in 1:00:58 is all-time Japanese #4, former Komazawa University ace Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta).  Miyawaki and Ugachi have had an interesting rivalry going over the last year, pushing each other to all-time Japanese top-ten 10000 m times at a time trial meet last fall before hammering each other through the winter ekiden season.  Miyawaki exactly tied his 27:41.57 best for 10000 m last month and looks as though he may be in a position to give the national record of 1:00:25 a shot, but Ugachi has been invisible since the end of the spring, leaving his current fitness a question mark. Likewise for the third man on the team, longtime JRN favorite Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo), who has been off the scene since landing at #8 on the all-time Japanese lists with a 1:01:15 clocking for 3rd behind Miyawaki at the National Corporate Half.

The remaining two men on the team have significantly slower bests but earned their places by beating a large number of faster men in the team selection races.  For the second year in a row Naoki Okamura (Team Chugoku Denryoku) was the only Japanese runner to go after the Kenyans at July's Sapporo International Half Marathon, this time caught on the track by Olympic marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) but still picked for the team based on his fearless performance.  Fan favorite Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) was also narrowly beaten by Fujiwara for the top Japanese position at May's Sendai International Half Marathon but, like Okamura, was named to the team nevertheless.  Kawauchi's fitness looks solid, with recent 1500 m and 5000 m PBs on back to back days a week after a 2:11:52 CR at the Sydney Marathon.

Japanese women's half marathoning has suffered a steep decline in recent years, with no Japanese woman running sub-1:09 since 2009 at even sub-1:10 times becoming a rarity.  Despite this decline, the team includes many of the country's current best.  Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) has the fastest PB of the five, 1:09:23 from last December's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon, and was the fastest Japanese woman of 2010.  This year's leading Japanese woman, Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), made her debut at March's National Corporate Half Marathon Championships like Miyawaki and, like him, won, clocking a 1:09:47 debut.  Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) also set her best of 1:10:03 in Sanyo last year but earned her place on the World Half team after beating Miyauchi in the heat in Sapporo in July, winning in 1:10:52.

The final two women on the team have not broken 1:11 but each has solid credentials.  At 21 Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) is the youngest woman on the team, but despite having only a 1:11:21 best she has been winning almost every road race she has entered this year, including a 1:43:55 win in February's hilly Ome 30 km, the third-fastest time there by a Japanese woman behind Olympic marathon gold medalists Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and Naoki Takahashi, setting her PB while winning Sendai in May, and a 1:12:58 win at August's Parkersburg Half Marathon.  A 1:11:39 behind Ito and Miyauchi in Sapporo was virtually the only glitch.  Although she has not run a fast time yet, her racing sense and greater relative strength over longer distances make her one of the people to watch in the next few years.  Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) has the oldest and slowest PB, a 1:11:35 from 2007, on the team, but as the 2011 national champion over 10000 m her track credentials earned her a wildcard place on the team.  Apart from a 1:11:59 win at February's Inuyama Half Marathon she has not shown the same level of fitness in 2012 as in her strong 2011 season, making her a question mark alongside the less-visible men.

Men

Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota)
Born Aug. 28, 1991 in Nagano

PBs
Half marathon: 1:00:53 (1st, 2012 National Corporate Championships, debut)
10000 m: 27:41.57 (2012, 2011)
5000 m: 13:35.74 (2011)

Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta)
Born Apr. 27, 1987 in Tochigi

PBs
Half marathon: 1:00:58 (2011 Marugame)
10000 m: 27:40.69 (2011)
5000 m: 13:29.50 (2012)

Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo)
Born July 13, 1986 in Osaka

PBs
Half marathon: 1:01:15 (2012 National Corporate Championships)
10000 m: 27:52.75 (2010)
5000 m: 13:34.21 (2010)


Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku)
Born: May 26, 1984 in Tottori

PBs
Marathon: 2:12:31 (2012 Lake Biwa)
Half marathon: 1:02:16 (2009 National Corporate Championships)
10000 m: 28:05.84 (2011)
5000 m: 13:58.21 (2007)

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.)
Born: Mar. 5, 1987 in Saitama

PBs
Marathon: 2:08:37 (2011 Tokyo)
Half marathon: 1:02:18 (2012 Marugame)
10000 m: 29:02.33 (2011)
5000 m: 13:58.62 (2012)



Women

Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera)
Born: June 19, 1983 in Kanagawa

PBs
Marathon: 2:26:23 (2012 Nagoya Women's)
Half marathon: 1:09:23 (2011 Sanyo Women's)
10000 m: 31:50.45 (2007)
5000 m: 15:37.54 (2007)

Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei)
Born: Jan. 25, 1988 in Chiba

PBs
Half marathon: 1:09:47 (1st, 2012 National Corporate Championships, debut)
10000 m: 32:27.70 (2012)
5000 m: 15:41.59 (2012)

Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku)
Born: May 23, 1984 in Nara

PBs
Marathon: 2:25:26 (2012 Nagoya Women's)
Half marathon: 1:10:03 (2011 Sanyo Women's)
10000 m: 32:14.43 (2011)
5000 m: 15:48.35 (2010)

Asami Kato (Team Panasonic)
Born: Oct. 12, 1990 in Aichi

PBs
Half marathon: 1:11:21 (1st, Sendai, 2012)
10000 m: 32:51.07 (2011)
5000 m: 15:57.59 (2012)

Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso)
Born: Feb. 24, 1983 in Shimane

PBs
Half marathon: 1:11:35 (2007 Miyazaki Women's)
10000 m: 31:34.41 (2011)
5000 m: 15:15.34 (2007)


(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

CK said…
Good summary of biographies of all startlist competitors on the iaaf website:
http://iaaf.org/mm/Document/06/79/06/67906_PDF_English.pdf
and
http://iaaf.org/mm/Document/06/79/07/67907_PDF_English.pdf

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