Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cheromei Sets 2:23:07 CR at Yokohama International Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner

Top-seeded Lydia Cheromei (Kenya) braved windy seaside conditions to solo a course record 2:23:07 at the 4th Yokohama International Women's Marathon after breaking from the pack at only 15 km.  As predicted, 2009 Tokyo Marathon winner Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) took top Japanese honors, 2nd overall in 2:26:42 after an exciting four-way battle over the last 7 km.

The first of three major women's selection races for the 2013 Moscow World Championships, Yokohama saw Japanese women butting heads with the Federation's seemingly excessively ambitious sub-2:24 qualifying time.  In difficult conditions three pacers led by the promising Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) took things out on schedule, but after Kato's departure at 14 km the pace slackened and Cheromei grew impatient.  Moving ahead of remaining pacers Maria Konovalova (Russia) and Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) at 15 km she forged on ahead, fluttering on either side of the 2:23 line with the vagaries of the wind all the way to the finish and the record.  Race announcer, former world record holder and Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoko Takahashi was critical of the top Japanese women's refusal to follow Cheromei's effort to keep things on pace and their complacency in sticking behind sagging pacers.

Shurkhno appeared to drop out ahead of schedule, leaving Konovalova to take the chase pack through 25 km.  Along the way big names including Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu), Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania), Jelena Procopcuka (Latvia) and Marisa Barros (Portugal) fell off one by one until only Nasukawa, Daegu World Championships team member Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and New York City Marathon refugee Kim Smith (New Zealand) were left.  Post-Konovalova, Smith was forced to take over pacing duties as Ito and Nasukawa sat behind her from 25 km to 35 km on 2:25 pace, two minutes short of the Federation standard and drifting toward 2:26.

At 35 km Barros, 3rd in Yokohama's second edition, unexpectedly regained contact with the leaders.  Ito surged in response, and for the next 5 km the chase pack race took a turn for the turbulent.  Each of the four women in the pack, Barros, Ito, Nasukawa and Smith, took a stab with a surge, alternately gapping the competition and playing catchup.  After having done the work through the wind for 10 km Smith was the first to drop, losing touch at 39 km.  Nasukawa's decisive move came at just before 40 km, putting Ito away for good and outclassing Barros with a sustained surge to the finish.  In another unexpected turn veteran Procopcuka showed her savvy by coming from nowhere to run down Smith and Ito in the final km, just missing Barros but taking 4th in 2:26:55, her best time in over five years.

With a record-setting performance in difficult conditions from Cheromei, the question mark lies on Nasukawa.  An exciting, powerful dismantling of the competition around her but no effort to go with the winner in pursuit of the time goal and ultimately almost three minutes shy.  Will the Federation put its money where its mouth is?  Will they leave Nasukawa off the World Championships team for not achieving a standard only fourteen Japanese women have ever managed?  January's Osaka International Women's Marathon will give some hint but Nasukawa's fate ultimately won't be known until after April's London Marathon.

4th Yokohama International Women's Marathon
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 11/18/12
click here for complete results

1. Lydia Cheromei (Kenya) - 2:23:07 - CR
2. Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:42
3. Marisa Barros (Portugal) - 2:26:51
4. Jelena Procopcuka (Latvia) - 2:26:55
5. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:27:06
6. Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 2:27:35
7. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:29:02
8. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:31:43
9. Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto) - 2:33:21
10. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:33:21

DNF - Amy Hastings (U.S.A.)
DNF - Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu)
DNF - Adriana Nelson (U.S.A.)
DNF - Jo Pavey (GBR)

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

8 comments:

Franfri said...

Do you how did finish Amy Hastings?

TokyoRacer said...

I was very disappointed that Nasukawa, her coach the famous Koide, her husband (I assume), and others around her were all laughing delightedly after she finished. You'd think she had won the Olympic marathon.
They obviously didn't care that she was second and got beat by almost 4 minutes! And she missed the qualifying time by 3 minutes. Apparently, to them, the only thing that matters is beating other Japanese. Do Nasukawa and Koide really think that their only competition in the marathon is other Japanese? That is pathetic. I admit, this is a common Japanese failing, but I expected more from Koide. As I said, very disappointing.

Brett Larner said...

No argument here. They were proudly trumpeting before the race about how Nasukawa had broken Q-chan's times in her pre-race workouts and was set for something big, but then in the IAAF post-race report it was, "I was not concerned about the time. I concentrated on being the top Japanese."

http://www.iaaf.org/news/report/cheromei-breaks-course-record-in-yokohama

Anonymous said...

The kind of parochialism shown by Nasukawa was also reflected in the TV coverage. Poor Cheromei was virtually ignored for long stretches. I thought they slighted a very brave effort.

TokyoRacer said...

And Kim Smith was REALLY ignored. I don't think they even mentioned her name until about 30k. Even though she was in the top group or leading the second group the entire time.
Finally, they made some comments about 'Kimberly Smith."

Brett Larner said...

I got a laugh out of the part late in the race where Akemi Masuda said Smith was in Japan on her honeymoon and the other announcer corrected her that Smith was here for the race and then a honeymoon later.

Nobby said...

All due respect, I think their (Nasukawa and Koide) real objective here is to make the team for Moscow next year. Nasukawa had been one of the best Japanese female marathon runners for the past 15 years but never represented Japan for a major international competition; either Olympics or World Championships. Her emotion was revealed at the press conference after the race.

It is a bit weird to have invited some of the top international runners but it WAS the first of the World Championship team selection trial. I think it's quite natural for Japanese audience to focus more on who may make the team than a solo effort by a foreign runner in the front (not even a neck-to-neck competition). And, while I also agree that they didn't make much notice on other foreign runners at all and it's frustrating, it's also, again, quite natural not to spend a whole lot of time talking about someone who's completely unknown to the Japanese audience. Along with Kim Smith whom I personally know, I had a couple of other "foreign" runners I wanted to follow but their names were mentioned ANYWHERE in the world-wide-web; not just the Japanese coverage. There were many occasions when I was watching Boston or NYC marathon in the US and they don't even talk about who finishes second, let alone foreign runners!!! It is what it is and I wouldn't cry over it.

Brett Larner said...

Nobby--

I'd have to disagree with pretty well all of your comments, particularly your contention that Nasukawa has been one of the best Japanese female marathon runners for the past 15 years. Her debut marathon was in 2004 and in that time she has only placed among the top ten Japanese female marathoners of any given year once, 4th in 2009 following her 2:25 win in Tokyo. I would have to say this was only the second good performance of her career.

The point of criticism is that despite talking big pre-race about beating Takahashi's training times, Nasukawa made no visible effort to either meet the published World Championships sub-2:24 standard or to make any visible attempt to go with the one athlete who did try to clear that standard and that while she may well still be selected for the 2013 team, she and Koide were perhaps celebrating too much considering that she was a km off the qualifying mark.

With regard to the rest of it, if you had had the opportunity to watch the race broadcast you would likely understand the other readers' comments better. Nobody is "crying over" anything and, to be honest, I'm surprised you would take such a disrespectful tone.