Friday, August 31, 2012

Legendary Team S&B to Disband (updated)

                                   Seko with the announcement. Click photo to enlarge.

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2012/09/01/kiji/K20120901004017610.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120831-1009359.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120831-1009418.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120831-1009427.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120831-1009421.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120831-1009429.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120831-1009436.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner
S&B greats group photo (c) 2012 Tim Chamberlain, all rights reserved

S&B Foods announced Aug. 31 that its men's running team, long the home of Japan's best distance runners, will be disbanded at the end of the fiscal year next March.  He himself the team's greatest success at the marathon, S&B Sports Department Chief Toshihiko Seko told reporters at a Tokyo-area press conference, "I apologize for this announcement happening so suddenly.  The company's business circumstances are precarious, and despite a wide variety of measures that we have taken to try to find a solution we've arrived at a position where the only way out of our troubles is to disband the team.  I think it was unavoidable, but it is sad all the same.  In my time as an athlete I think I was able to pay back the company's investment in me a little, but since becoming coach and then division chief I feel that I have let the company down.  Maybe the athlete's competitive record was also a part of the company's decision.  I myself don't know.  I hope now that our runners will carry on the spirit of Team S&B wherever they go next."

Head coach Hiroshi Tako agreed, saying, "'Competing with the world's best' has always been the lofty ideal at S&B, and I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue that ideal together with the athletes, staff, and company workers at S&B for twenty years.  Our athletes are still developing.  They will continue to work toward the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in a new environment, taking with them the S&B spirit of earning a place among the world's best."

Team S&B was founded in 1954 and under the leadership of head coach Kiyoshi Nakamura in the 1980's it became the gathering place of the best university runners in their post-collegiate careers, recording four straight New Year Ekiden national titles starting in 1984.  S&B athletes made up a large part of the distance squads on the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympic teams, the Golden Era of the team's history.  Seko ran the marathon in L.A., with teammates Yutaka Kanai finishing 7th in the 10000 m and Nanae Sasaki the top Japanese finisher in the women's marathon.  S&B's Douglas Wakiihuri won the gold medal at the 1987 Rome World Championships marathon, following up a year later with silver in the Seoul Olympics marathon where Seko and Hisatoshi Shintaku also ran the marathon.  Following Seoul, Seko become head coach of the S&B team.  After leading 2:07 marathoner Tomoaki Kunichika to the 2004 Athens Olympics marathon, Seko was named S&B Foods Sports Division Chief in April, 2006, taking on a new role of support for the team.


S&B Golden Era greats (l-r) Tsukasa Endo, Takao Nakamura, Masanari Shintaku and Toshihiko Seko in Sendagaya, Tokyo, 6/28/12.

The current team roster includes a staff of six and six athletes, among them 2012 London Olympics 10000 m 5th placer Bitan Karoki and 2008 Beijing Olympics 5000 m and 10000 m runner Kensuke Takezawa.  Although the S&B Foods company's financial circumstances were cited as the primary reason behind the team's disbanding, the lack of results in major races in recent years was surely also a major factor.  Although Takezawa and Yuichiro Ueno, who ran in the 2009 Berlin World Championships, are still on the team, their failure to make the London Olympics team was the apparent deal-breaker.

Takezawa, the 2010 national 10000 m champion and collegiate 5000 m national record holder, commented, "I've been working hard under Chief Seko and Coach Tako, so it's very unfortunate.  I want to get back on track as soon as I can, looking ahead and renewing my motivation in my training."  Ueno, the 2009 national champion over 1500 m and 5000 m, added, "I'm very sad that the team of which I have been a part is disappearing.  But until my next destination as an individual athlete is settled I want to keep running with my friends and training partners the way I have all along."

All twelve members of the team including Seko will now look for a new sponsor.  "We plan to look for a sponsor who will take on all twelve members of the team as a prerequisite to any deal," said Seko.  "We have some young, developing athletes, so it is key that we settle their future and give them peace of mind as soon as possible.  Until the future of our athletes and staff is settled I will give no thought to myself."  Due to the sudden nature of the announcement, no approaches have yet been made to any potential new sponsors, but if no company can be found that will accept all twelve members then the current team members will have no choice but to split up and go their separate ways.  In that scenario it is quite possible that some athletes will have to retire.

According to a party connected with the company, if a new sponsor cannot be found and the current members split up, it is likely some will remain behind to continue working at S&B Foods.  "It is the mission of both the company and myself to ensure that the athletes and staff find a new environment in which they can continue to train and compete together," said the source.  "Not being afraid to get your feet wet is part of the S&B spirit.  I want us all to face the future and whatever it brings with the full spirit of S&B."

Another of the Golden Era greats, Team Asahi Kasei head coach Takeshi Soh commented, "To think of the legendary red uniform disappearing for good makes me incredibly sad.  It's inevitable that a company's fortunes will have their ups and downs as the times change, and if that is the reason this decision was made it leaves those of us who competed together with S&B for so long desolate and lonely."



Translator's note: The source articles make no mention of Kenyan S&B runners Wakiihuri or Karoki.  I've amended the contents to include their places in S&B's history.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nakamoto Meets With Lieutenant Governor and Mayor to Discuss Olympic Marathon 6th-Place Finish

http://mainichi.jp/area/yamaguchi/news/20120829ddlk35050403000c.html
http://www.tvq.co.jp/news/news.php?did=8331

translated and edited by Brett Larner

London Olympics men's marathoner and Shimonoseki native Kentaro Nakamoto (29, Team Yasukawa Denki), met with Yamaguchi prefecture lieutenant governor Minoru Okada Aug. 28 at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Government headquarters to discuss his 6th-place finish at the Olympics.  Lieutenant Governor Okada complimented Nakamoto, telling him, "Your run was a great source of pride for all citizens of Yamaguchi.  We were all tremendously impressed and inspired by the way you came up late in the race."  In honor of Nakamoto's performance the lieutenant governor presented him with a selection of locally-produced agricultural and marine food and other items produced by companies within the prefecture.

Lieutenant Governor Okada also asked Nakamoto, "What do you think about while you are running?"  Nakamoto replied, "When I'm running I think about beating whoever is in front of me," adding, "In London I was so focused on the race that I didn't notice the surroundings or the scenery at all."

The same day, Nakamoto, who runs for the Kita-Kyushu-based Yasukawa Denki corporate team, also visited Kita-Kyushu mayor Kenji Kitahashi to share his Olympic experience.  Nakamoto told Mayor Kitahashi, "Thanks to all the great support and encouragement I got from everyone in Kita-Kyushu and elsewhere, I was able to come 6th and meet my goal of a top-eight finish.  I'm already looking four years ahead and will do my best to get there.  I want to keep identifying and tackling the issues one at a time, targeting each race along the way and continuing to improve."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hakone Ekiden Champs Toyo University Win 2012 Hood to Coast Relay

by Brett Larner

Making their U.S. debut at the invitation of team sponsor Nike, 2012 Hakone Ekiden course record setters Toyo University won the U.S.' premier road relay, Oregon's Hood to Coast Relay, on Aug. 24-25.  Running a team of mostly first and second-year students, Toyo had little trouble dispatching 2011 Hood to Coast winner Knoxville Track Club and 2011 runner-up Bowerman AC, covering the roughy 320 km, 36 stage course in 17:14:37 to Bowerman AC's 17:56:00.  Defending champ Knoxville TC was 3rd in 18:14:17.

2012 Hood to Coast Relay
320 km, 36 stages
Oregon, 8/24-25/12
click here for complete results

1. Toyo University - 17:14:37
2. Bowerman AC - 17:56:00
3. Knoxville Track Club - 18:14:17
4. Icebreaker Lund - 18:35:45
5. Univ. of Portland Alumni - 19:18:40
6. Google1 - 19:24:08
7. GE Meatballs - 19:27:14
8. Tarahumara - 19:41:42
9. Black Flag - 19:47:07
10. Willamette Dental - 19:47:25

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi, Yoshizumi Win Hokkaido Marathon, Tanaka Wins City to Surf

by Brett Larner

In his fifth marathon to date this year, 2011 World Championships marathon team member Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) added the second marathon win to his resume as he took the Aug. 26 Hokkaido Marathon in 2:18:38. Osaka-based amateur Yuri Yoshizumi (Osaka Nagai AC) came from behind to win the women's race in 2:39:06.

Long one of Japan's peak elite summer races, this year saw Hokkaido all but eliminate its elite field this year, and as a result 2:08:37 man Kawauchi's win was never in serious doubt.  After a five-man lead pack went through halfway in 1:08:18, Kawauchi powered away to open a one-minute lead over his nearest competition. Although Kawauchi faded to a 1:10:20 second half in the rising temperatures, his competition faded more dramatically. Kawauchi's final margin of victory was more than three minutes over runner-up Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), who clocked 2:21:49.

In the women's race Yoshizumi started far behind sub-2:30 favorite Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren), but as Suzuki faded early in the second half Yoshizumi was there to take over, sailing on unchallenged to the finish. In an indication of Hokkaido's downgrading of its elite race, Kawauchi's winning time was the slowest in Hokkaido history since its first winner, Russian Fedor Ryzhov, ran 2:24:28 in 1987, while Yoshizumi's time was the slowest winning time since American Jane Welzel won the race's second edition in 2:40:53 in 1988.

The same day as Hokkaido, two-time Hokkaido winner Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC AC) opted to head south, easily winning the City-to-Surf Marathon in Perth, Australia in 2:41:14.

2012 Hokkaido Marathon
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 8/26/12
click here for complete results and splits

Men
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) - 2:18:38
2. Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:21:49
3. Takaya Sakamoto (Tokushima T&F Assoc.) - 2:24:24
4. Makoto Ozawa (Team Sekino Reform) - 2:24:37
5. Naoki Yamashita (Team NTN) - 2:25:14

Women
1. Yuri Yoshizumi (Osaka Nagai AC) - 2:39:06
2. Misuzu Okamoto (Team Hokkoku Ginko) - 2:45:46
3. Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 2:47:32
4. Saki Tabata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:50:14
5. Noriko Toshima (Hokkaido Marathon Club) - 2:59:28

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, August 24, 2012

Toyo University Arrives in Yamakoshi for Summer Training

http://www.niigata-nippo.co.jp/news/sports/39194.html

translated by Brett Larner

Course record-setting winners of the 2012 Hakone Ekiden this past January, the Toyo University ekiden team arrived in Yamakoshi, Niigata on Aug. 23 for intensive summer training. Looking to defend their Hakone title, ten members of the team led by assistant captain and Hakone Sixth Stage winner Takanori Ichikawa (21) will kick off their season on the tough, hilly mountain roads around Yamakoshi.

This year marks Toyo's fifth time doing summer training in Yamakoshi.  The team will be knocking out its training for five days through the 27th. Arriving midday on the 23rd, the athletes were very soon out the door and running on a 9 km course. Cheers of encouragement from local residents helped the team on as they gritted their way up a steep uphill.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Group Overflowing With Individuality

The Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden is the largest event in the Japanese sports world, a two day Kanto-region university men's road relay with a TV audience in the tens of millions.  In a typical year nineteen university teams of ten men each run Hakone, along with a twentieth team, the Kanto Region University Select Team, made up of individual runners from schools without teams strong enough to make the Hakone cut.  

The Kanto Region University Athletics Association recently announced its decision to do away with the Select Team following the 2014 Hakone Ekiden.  In response, a famously individualistic Japanese runner, the most famous runner to have gone from the Select Team to the world level, started a blog to protest the decision, posting the following earlier this week.  The athlete has chosen not to directly put his name forward, but his identity should be immediately obvious to even casual JRN readers.  As a hint, the URL linked below includes the Japanese word for select team, senbatsu/senbatu, followed by two initials.

http://ameblo.jp/senbatuyk/entry-11332814229.html

translated by Brett Larner

Yesterday and today we had a training camp in Nikko.  Members of the group included graduates of Waseda University, Meiji University, Nihon University, Chuo Gakuin University and others, all of them overflowing with motivation and exciting potential for the future, guys with strong personalities who have the confidence to say, "We can do this without a coach," and, "Let's follow our own routes to getting stronger," and who just radiate that message.  Last week it was a group of students and graduates from Dokkyo University, Takasaki Keizai University and Gakushuin University, and in July a group including Komazawa University graduates and students at Tokyo Denki University and Seikei University did a training camp together at altitude at Mt. Zao.

When I look around at people graduating from the powerful high school teams, most of them think that their choices are just, "Should I go to a strong university team, a corporate team, or quit?"  If they feel like, "I can't handle harder training than this," and give up on their running after high school I think it is a waste of potential.  When the same people graduate from university they think their only choices are, "Should I go to a corporate team or quit?"  If they give up on their running at this stage I think it is a waste of potential.

But there are many athletes who have found their own way, their own route to becoming stronger.  These days more and more as I train together with different people I see it all around me.  At our training camps, at our group practice sessions I look around, I look around and see a lot of new faces, bringing new ways of thinking, new relationships, and from this I think we can stimulate each other to learn and grow.  There are more athletes like this than you can imagine, everywhere, pursuing their athletic dreams in their own style without having to answer to a coach or leader, and I have the impression that they are looking for that stimulus, that connection of training with a like-minded group.

For those who like a one-on-one relationship a coach is necessary.  But for athletes overflowing with individuality what they need is not a coach but a training group.  The people in my training group have different goals, different backgrounds, different training environments, so it is difficult to answer the question, "Who are your training partners?"  If I presume to try to answer that, I find that I can only describe my relationship to many of them as something like, "He went to school with this runner who met another runner online who had talked to me at this time trial meet."  For every guy who comes each time there is someone who only shows up once, and if there are those who come occasionally there are others who show up religiously in particular seasons.  All these different people are only getting together in search of training partners and a training group to help them achieve their own personal goals.  Some of them I meet for the first time at the meeting point for the workout, others I'm meeting again after having run together in a race somewhere a long time ago.

Whoever they are, there is no absolute hierarchical relationship like that between coach and athlete, rather an unconnected group (?) of individuals looking to find a win-win relationship, a collective of people who come when they feel that, "I need this to help me achieve what I want," and don't come when they feel that, "I don't need this to help me achieve what I want," and we are all perfectly clear on that point.  Most of us, including me, belong to other clubs.  Sometimes there are two of us including me, and sometimes eighteen people come, so compared to the kind of paid-membership amateur running clubs that are around these days we are shapeless, decentralized, remote.  It's so loose that it's a puzzle whether you can even call us a group.

But since we can't try to recruit new members or hang on to those we have, I think it's fine to pursue the style we have so far, getting stimulation from a wide variety of different athletes.  And if someone from the training group emerges to go on to bigger things than now I would be happier than anything, someone we've all run together with up til now and who has been spurred on by the group's intense motivation.  That would be pretty interesting.

When I walked out from under a coach two years ago I thought, "Now that I'm alone I'm no longer alone," and I really believe that the benefits of having done this have been huge.  Now I'm in a position where I can train with a highly-motivated group, and when I think that wherever I go, if our workouts and schedules coincide I can meet up with other lone wolf athletes, I think, "What a great time to be alive."  I feel thankful to be living in this era, and while I'm heatedly pursuing my own dreams and athletic style I want to use myself as a guinea pig, trying out all sorts of ideas to find out whether the common sense of the running world is really any kind of sense at all.

I haven't become a "superstar" like all the "Hakone stars," but if you think about what it means to be a "superstar," it seems to me that it is something like the realization of a beginning, and that's what I want to become.  I want my own life as an athlete to be the start for someone else, and I want to work as hard as I can in as many different ways as possible to try to broaden the possibilities within the running world.

From the point of view of trying to feel out the possibilities within the running world, I ask the executive board of the Kanto Region University Athletics Association not to say that the Kanto Region University Select Team has fulfilled its role.  For the sake of the future of Japan's running world I ask that they maintain the highest target for athletes at small schools without powerful running programs, that which provides tremendous stimulation for them to aim at competing against the best athletes at the biggest, strongest schools, the Kanto Region University Select Team.  I would like to ask the very highest people in the Kanto Region University Athletics Association to reconsider from this standpoint whether the decision to do away with the Select Team is in the best interests of the majority of college athletes, whether it will be in the best interests of the next generation, whether it will be in the best interests of the future of the Japanese running world.

In this one team are embodied the dreams, the hopes, the ambitions of countless schools and the innumerable athletes running at them.  Even for the athletes who can't make it to the Select Team, the existence of the Select Team gives them a goal, a dream through which to strive to improve themselves and their competitive abilities, and in that way it is critical that the Select Team be preserved.  If the executive board of the Kanto Region University Athletics Board is able to consider what is right for the future of the Japanese running world, to transcend the concept of the Hakone Ekiden, I ask that they keep the place where athletes who want to become world-class without giving up their individuality find their start, and preserve the Kanto Region University Select Team.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Arata Fujiwara - His Olympic Marathon Defeat in His Own Words

http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXZZO45177410Q2A820C1000000/

translated by Brett Larner - published by Nikkei 8/22/12

follow Fujiwara on Twitter

For men's marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), the London Olympics ended with a 45th-place finish in 2:19:11, 11 minutes and 10 seconds slower that winner Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda).  Defeated by the sudden dissolution of his speed after 30 km, how does Fujiwara now analyze his performance?

Beginning July 5, I trained for a month at 1700 m elevation in St. Moritz (Switzerland) before travelling to London on Aug. 4.  There was no need for any more hard workouts, so all I had to do was just wait for the big race on the 12th without worrying about it.  I think now that I should have been more careful about the process of coming down from altitude and re-acclimatizing to sea level.

If you train at altitude one product is that your cardiovascular system and whatnot get stronger. When you come down to sea level it feels great to run even if your form is inefficient and there's a lot of wasted movement.  To be honest I think I may have been guilty of that.  You could probably say that my training in St. Moritz was so good that I was really confident and not as maniacally obsessed with my running form as I could have been.  You could say I was negligent.

If you want to judge what kind of shape you're in, times are the best way to do it.  After I got to London the times I was running in intervals and the like were good, so I thought from that that everything was OK.  But the good interval splits were just a byproduct of my altitude training and, if I had to speculate, maybe I was just running off the extra power, maybe my motion itself wasn't any good.  I can't really say for sure but there's a good chance that was the case.  That kind of problem doesn't have much of an impact over short distances, but in the marathon you have to run with clean, beautiful movement in a good rhythm.  If your form is off then it's not going to go well.

Regardless of that, before the race I had told myself, "You've done everything you needed to do," and "Your body is up to its level."  Maybe that's where the tension got broken.  Usually in training I focus on making small corrections to my form, repeating them over and over until the race, but for whatever reason this time I was telling myself, "I'll be OK like this."  Needless to say, I was also under some pressure.  I didn't try to overcome the pressure, rather to forget about it and keep it off my mind.  I tried to stay relaxed and not worry.  My workouts were done in an hour or an hour and a half, and after that I just watched the Olympics on TV, just keeping it normal.

After I was the top Japanese finisher at the Tokyo Marathon in February and made the Olympic team I had a lot of interest from sponsors and the circle of people and environment around me changed completely.  Those were the circumstances I was in as I tried to get ready for the race with all my ability.  The time came for me to give the only answer I had to everything, and when I ran the race I was thinking that this was when I was supposed to give my answer.

The morning of the race I was strangely relaxed, and if I think about it now that was probably not a good thing.  Normally on the morning of the race the blood goes to my head and I feel a kind of rage.  It would have been better if I'd been that way in London, with the bloodlust blocking out all thoughts.

As far as the details of the race, I didn't set any target time.  The only thing I was expecting was that at some point the pace was suddenly going to go bang and people would take off, so it was hard to read the development of the race and even if I'd set a target time it wouldn't have helped.  I set off behind [Ryan] Hall (U.S.A.) and [Viktor] Rothlin (Switzerland) and was just focusing on breaking 2:10.

I thought I was feeling good, but when the real running got started it felt hard.  If I'd been able to maintain 15:20 pace per 5 km I think I would have ended up in a good position, but I didn't end up having that kind of margin to maneuver with.  My form must have been really off.  I didn't worry at all when [Wilson] Kipsang (Kenya) took off early.  I figured he was going to win, so I just thought, "Go ahead, have a good run."  I was struggling but just told myself that the only thing to do was to keep going the same way.

I think the spot where I really crashed and slowed down was around 32 km.  Both of my legs were cramping and I couldn't move the way I expected.  If you get into that kind of situation there's nothing you can do about it.  It took me 20:21 to run the 5 km after 35 km.  All the curves and corners on that course were probably what killed me.  I'm the kind of runner who races based on rhythm, cruising the second half in a good stride.  If the second half is fast I run with an image of just going on smoothly all the way.  But on the London course the curves just kept coming and coming and I couldn't get into that kind of rhythm.  I don't know how many times I did simulation runs to get ready for that in training, but in the actual race I just couldn't do it well.

The first thought that came into my head when I crossed the finish line in 45th was, "Oh man, now I'm in trouble."  I put everything I had into getting ready for the Olympics, but when that was the result all I could think was, "So....what's going to happen to me now?"  I was really worried about how the world was going to view me.  I quit the corporate system to focus on the marathon and train without a coach.  For a while I was living with no income, and after that, once I got a big result the sponsors came calling.  I've chosen to walk a different road, so even when I do something that's not worth noticing it's now something that everybody takes notice of.

Since I made the Olympic team I've been lifted up by the media higher and higher.  All that time down in the bottom of my heart I've been worried about what would happen if I blew it at the Olympics.  I have a kind of outlaw existence in the Japanese athletics world, so I imagined that if I screwed up I'd be pretty widely attacked.  I knew they'd be saying, "See?  That's what happens."  Once you start thinking that way it becomes really stressful.

I've always been someone who wanted to follow a road I chose, someone who likes running by himself.  But maybe at some point I've taken that step without being on firm enough footing.  If you wanted to analyze me psychologically you would no doubt say that my fear that "If I don't get the results then it's going to be a disaster," made exactly that come true.  When things are going well I never want to look back that way, just taking things at my own pace and doing what I want to do.  Unfortunately before the Olympics I couldn't have that kind of feeling.  Right after I finished, too, the first thought in my mind was, "This has turned into a nightmare," with the knowledge that the whole world's eyes had seen it happen.

The London Olympics ended up feeling like the fire didn't burn everything away, like I hadn't been able to give everything.  I still can't help feeling like, "[Stephen] Kiprotich (Uganda) won the gold medal, but I beat him fair and square in Tokyo. If he can win gold, then I should be a....."  Even so, the Olympics are an incredible experience.  Some old man who wasn't the type who would normally care anything about the marathon or someone like me told me, "Please give it your best," with total sincerity, almost as if he was praying, just because I was an Olympian.  I'm nothing special, it's the Olympics that are something special.  Maybe it's a strange thing to say, but the Olympics seem like something that belongs to the gods.

I'm not in a position to proudly say that I'm glad I could run in the Olympics.  But still, I'm glad I did it.  My feeling now is that I have to make use of this experience.  It's hard to think about four years from now.  To begin with, I'm thinking about the next race.  I can't say anything certain yet, but I want to go for a time goal in a winter race.  I think it's safer if I stick to domestic races.  That's the way I'm leaning right now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

'Kato Becomes First Japanese to Win Half Marathon'

http://www.newsandsentinelhalfmarathon.com/page/content.detail/id/505260/Kato-becomes-first-Japanese-runner-to-win-half-marathon.html?nav=5014

JRN arranged for Kato & Matsumi's participation in this race.

Parkersburg News & Sentinel Half Marathon
Parkersburg, West Virginia, 8/18/12
click here for complete results

Women
1. Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) - 1:12:58
2. Malika Mejdoub (Morocco) - 1:13:15
3. Yesimebet Tades Bifa (Ethiopia) - 1:13:27
4. Hellen Jemutai (Kenya) - 1:13:46
5. Hirut Dangul (Ethiopia) - 1:14:44
-----
8. Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:17:03

Men
1. Julius Kogo (Kenya) - 1:03:36
2. Alene Reta (Ethiopia) - 1:04:25
3. Nicholas Kurgat (Kenya) - 1:06:00
4. Dereji Woldegiyorgis (Ethiopia) - 1:06:37
5. Josh Ordway (U.S.A.) - 1:08:06

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Okamoto Wins Hiroshima XC Meet

http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/News/Tn201208190051.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

click here for complete results

Don't give in to the heat!  On Aug. 18 at Dogoyama Cross Country Park in Shobara, Hiroshima, 2382 runners from the five prefectures of the Chugoku region and as far away as Kanto took part in the 13th Hiroshima Cross Country Meet, competing in 36 different age and gender divisions over five hilly courses from 1 to 8 km in length at 700 m elevation.  At the start of the first race at 11:15 the temperature was 32 degrees.  Cheers of "Keep going!" and "Just a little further!" from the sidelines urged on the sweat-soaked athletes as they covered the course.  With the intense heat slowing them down, most could only shrug in resignation as they checked their watches after crossing the finish line.

The invited athlete field included athletes from the Chugoku Denryoku and Edion corporate teams.  With experience on the Japanese national team at the World Cross Country Championships, Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) won the senior men's 8 km race in 24:21, while Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) took the senior women's 8 km in 27:52.  Shobara J.H.S. third-year Kazuya Yamaguchi (14) won the junior high school boys' 3 km division, wiping the sweat from his face as he told reporters, "I really wanted to win a hometown race.  It feels good to run in the mountains."

The Chugoku Newspaper's multipurpose location car Chupea-go was on-site, giving out 500 copies of a special news flash edition of the paper to participants and spectators.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yumiko Hara Out of Hokkaido Marathon

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20120816/ath12081617220000-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Aug. 26 Hokkaido Marathon in Sapporo announced on Aug. 16 that invited runner and 2010 Hokkaido champion Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) has withdrawn due to sciatic nerve pain that has disrupted her training.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Olympic Marathoner Nakamoto Returns Home to Kita-Kyushu

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20120815/ath12081517340001-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

London Olympics men's marathon 6th-place finisher Kentaro Nakamoto (29, Team Yasukawa Denki) returned home at Kita-Kyushu Airport on Aug. 15, greeted with bouquets of flowers and blessings from the assembled crowd.  All he could say in return was a shy, "Thank you."  Sporting a suit, Nakamoto was first greeted in the arrival hall by former Yasukawa Denki runner Keitaro Murase, 38, who pumped his hand in a hearty handshake and said, "Congratulations!" as applause rang out all around them.

Straining to hold back his emotions, Nakamoto told the crowd, "I ran to the absolute best of my ability.  I'm not satisfied with the result, but I can come back now and say to you from the heart that I gave it my best."  In training for London Nakamoto has barely seen his son Riku, who was born less than two months ago, and, he said, "My family was biggest motivation.  I wanted to be able to tell my son, 'Your dad gave it everything he had.'  Looking four years ahead I want to keep doing the best job I can."

Team Yasukawa Denki head coach Naoki Yamagashira commented, "I'm very happy that he was able to bring the full benefits of his training into play.  The plan now is for him to take it nice and easy as he enjoys the rewards of his success."  Murase added his personal blessing, saying, "Kentaro realized the dream that all of us held.  He's an incredible person."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tokyo Gets 2020 Olympic Bid Rolling On Yamanote Line

Boarding the Yamanote Line, the major commuter train line circling central Tokyo, just hours after the London Olympics closing ceremonies, we found the entire train decorated with Asics PR advertising Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympics featuring Asics-sponsored athletes.

The outside of the Yamanote Line. The rear door of each car also featured a picture of sprinter Chisato Fukushima in full stride.

Inside the train, with a track running down the center aisle.

The text at the bottom says, "Because it is hazardous, please do not run inside the train."

Marathoners Kentaro Nakamoto, Arata Fujiwara and Risa Shigetomo.

One of the many athlete features inside the train, this one spotlighting Fujiwara.

photos (c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 12, 2012

London Olympics Athletics Day Ten - Men's Marathon

by Brett Larner

2012 Tokyo Marathon 3rd-placer Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) staged a surprise upset in the London Olympics men's marathon, dropping two-time world champion Abel Kirui (Kenya) and 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon winner Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) with 5 km to go to give Uganda its first-ever marathon gold and prevent a Kenyan repeat of the late great Samuel Wanjiru's victory in Beijing four years ago.  Despite the unexpected loss, Kirui and Kipsang became the first-ever Kenyan runners without Japanese coaching to win Olympic marathon medals.

Japanese favorite Arata Fujiwara ran tough in the first two-thirds of the race, teaming up with 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon runner-up Henryk Szost (Poland) to reel in stragglers from the lead pack, but making contact with the chase pack he settled into a slower than hoped for pace that allowed his former Takushoku University roommate Kentaro Nakamoto to catch up.  Where Fujiwara locked on to the rhythm of the pack, Nakamoto pushed on ahead after catching them, followed by Athens Olympics silver medalist Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) and the PB-running Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe).  As Fujiwara characteristically faded in the heat, Nakamoto and Keflezighi kept moving forward, advancing place by place to 5th.

With Nakamoto having been run down on the last lap of the track at Lake Biwa in March and the American's history of strong finishes there was little doubt of the outcome of their head-to-head duel, given extra fuel as two-time NYC Marathon winner Marilson Dos Santos (Brazil) came into sight.  Keflezighi kicked away from Nakamoto in the home straight to run down Dos Santos for 4th, Nakamoto coming up just short of tying Shigeru Aburuya's 5th-place finish in Athens as he took 6th behind Dos Santos in 2:11:16, the 3rd-fastest time ever by a Japanese man at the Olympics and continuing his nine marathon-strong streak of always finishing in the top ten regardless of the conditions or circumstances.

As with his past warm weather races, Fujiwara wilted abruptly late in the race, dropping from as high as 8th to 45th and just breaking 2:20.  Overtaking him late in the race, third Japanese man Ryo Yamamoto took 40th in 2:18:34.

2012 London Olympics Men's Marathon
London, England, 8/12/12
click here for complete results

1. Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:08:01
2. Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 2:08:27
3. Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:09:37
4. Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) - 2:11:06
5. Marilson Dos Santos (Brazil) - 2:11:10
6. Kentaro Nakamoto (Japan) - 2:11:16
7. Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) - 2:12:08 - PB
8. Paulo Roberto Paula (Brazil) - 2:12:17
9. Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:12:28
10. Ruggero Pertile (Italy) - 2:12:45
-----
40. Ryo Yamamoto (Japan) - 2:18:34
45. Arata Fujiwara (Japan) - 2:19:11

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

It Is Time



The promise of gold awaits the first to find it. He runs.

Olympic Marathoner Nakamoto: "I've Built My Legs to Last"

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2012/08/12/kiji/K20120812003885730.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2011 Daegu World Championships marathon 10th-place finisher Kentaro Nakamoto (29, Team Yasukawa Denki) has done all of his training for the London Olympics domestically, with simple confidence saying, "I've built my legs to last."  His concerns about the London weather are the opposite of most of his competition's: "I'm not very good in cold weather, so I hope it gets hot."

On June 27 Nakamoto celebrated the birth of his son Riku.  His closing words were for his wife Reiko and Riku, who are cheering him on from back home in Japan: "I can't wait to see them after getting the result I want in the race.  I'm shooting for top eight."

Yamamoto Ready to Tackle 100-Corner Marathon Course With Irregular Pacing

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2012/08/12/kiji/K20120812003885720.html

translated by Brett Larner

To prepare himself to tackle the 100+ corner London Olympic marathon course, Ryo Yamamoto (28, Team Sagawa Express) has avoided steady-pace training and instead focused on running in a shifting-pace style, matching his rhythm to the demands of the terrain.  A three-loop route through the heart of the city, the Olympic marathon course is said to have 100 corners.  "In Sugadaira I did a lot of cross-country training, and in both my speedwork and my long runs I focused on changing the pace," he said, showing confidence in the outcome of his training since June, which included periodic visits to view the course.

Yamamoto's monthly mileage has been around 1200 km, the same as before this year's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon where he earned his place at the Olympics.  "It won't be easy, but I'm aiming for the top eight," he said.  "Whenever I have the chance I'll be aiming to move up in the field."  When he ran Lake Biwa Yamamoto was only looking at it as a step toward making next year's World Championships team, but having unexpectedly made the Olympics he is now ready to take a serious shot on the biggest stage of them all.

London Olympics Athletics Day Nine - Japanese Results

London, England, 8/11/12
click here for complete results

Men's 50 km Race Walk
1. Sergey Kirdyapkin (Russia) - 3:35:59 - OR
2. Jared Tallent (Australia) - 3:36:53 - PB
3. Tianfeng Si (China) - 3:37:16 - PB
4. Robert Heffernan (Ireland) - 3:37:54 - NR
5. Igor Erokhin (Russia) - 3:37:54 - PB
-----
10. Koichiro Morioka (Japan) - 3:43:14 - PB
DQ - Yuki Yamazaki (Japan)
DQ - Takayuki Tanii (Japan)

Women's 20 km Race Walk
1. Elena Lashmanova (Russia) - 1:25:02 - WR
2. Olga Kaniskina (Russia) - 1:25:09
3. Shenjie Qieyang (China) - 1:25:16 - AR
4. Hong Liu (China) - 1:26:00
5. Anisya Kirdyapkina (Russia) - 1:26:26
-----
11. Masumi Fuchise (Japan) - 1:28:41
18. Mayumi Kawasaki (Japan) - 1:30:20
37. Kumi Otoshi (Japan) - 1:33:50

Men's 4x100 m Relay Final
1. Jamaica - 36.84 - WR
2. U.S.A. - 37.04 - NR
3. Trinidad & Tobago - 38.12
4. France - 38.16
5. Japan (Yamagata/Eriguchi/Takahira/Iizuka) - 38.35
6. Netherlands - 38.39
7. Australia - 38.43
DQ - Canada

Men's Javelin Throw Final
1. Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad & Tobago) - 84.58 m - NR
2. Oleksandr Pyatnytsya (Ukraine) - 84.51 m
3. Antti Ruuskanen (Finland) - 84.12
-----
10. Genki Dean (Japan) - 79.95 m

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, August 11, 2012

'As a Long-Distance Runner, Lonelier Than Most'

The New York Times' Ken Belson interviews Olympic marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Miki House):

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/11/sports/olympics/arata-fujiwara-gives-japan-a-hopeful-in-mens-olympic-marathon.html

London Olympics Athletics Day Eight - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

The Japanese men's 4x100 m relay team came through with a solid 38.07, just 0.04 off the national record, to finish 2nd in their heat and make the London Olympics final thanks in no small part to another big anchor run from 2010 World Jr. Championships 200 m gold medalist Shota Iizuka (Chuo Univ.).

100 m national champion Ryota Yamagata (Keio Univ.) led off with a superb opening leg to put Japan up front with the heat-winning U.S.A. team.  Despite characteristically smooth exchanges and good runs from past national champion Masashi Eriguchi (Team Osaka Gas) and Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu), the only returning member of Japan's bronze medal-winning Beijing Olympics team, Japan slipped back over the next two legs before Iizuka took over.  Showing a flash of the brilliance of his collegiate national record anchor run at the 2010 Kanto Region University T&F Championships, Iizuka blew by all but the U.S. to put Japan into 2nd, just off the Beijing team's 38.03 national record.

The Japanese team goes into the final ranked 4th, far behind the U.S.A. and Jamaica but almost even with Canada, which clocked 38.05 in Heat One.  Trinidad & Tobago is just behind.  In Beijing Japan got the bronze thanks in part to a fumbled exchange knocking the U.S. out of competition.  This time the bronze and maybe a national record are just within in reach under their own power if the Japanese team can show the same composure in the final and Iizuka can go even deeper into whatever well brings him that anchor leg magic.

2012 London Olympics Athletics - Day Eight
London, England, 8/10/12
click here for complete results

Men's 4x100 m Relay Heat Two
1. U.S.A. - 37.38 - Q, NR
2. Japan (Yamagata/Eriguchi/Takahira/Iizuka) - 38.07 - Q
3. Trinidad & Tobago - 38.10 - Q
4. France - 38.15 - q
5. Australia - 38.17 - q, =AR
6. Poland - 38.31 - NR
7. Germany - 38.37
8. Hong Kong - 38.61

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, August 10, 2012

London Olympics Athletics Day Seven - Japanese Results

London, England, 8/9/12
click here for complete results

Men's Decathlon Final Standings
1. Ashton Eaton (U.S.A.) - 8869
2. Trey Hardee (U.S.A.) - 8671
3. Leonel Suarez (Cuba) - 8523
-----
20. Keisuke Ushiro (Japan) - 7842

Men's 4x400 m Relay Heat Two
1. Bahamas - 2:58.87 - Q
2. U.S.A. - 2:58.87 - Q
3. Russia - 3:02.01 - Q
-----
6. Japan (Takase/Kanemaru/Azuma/Nakano) - 3:03.86

Women's 4x100 m Relay Heat One
1. U.S.A. - 41.64 - Q
2. Trinidad & Tobago - 42.31 - Q
3. Netherlands - 42.45 - Q
-----
8. Japan (Doi/Ichikawa/Fukushima/Sano) - 44.25

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, August 9, 2012

London Olympics Athletics Day Six - Japanese Results

London, England, 8/8/12
click here for complete results

Men's 5000 m Heat One
1. Hayle Ibrahimov (Azerbaijan) - 13:25.23 - Q
2. Isiah Kiplangat Koech (Kenya) - 13:25.64 - Q
3. Mohamed Farah (U.K.) - 13:26.00 - Q
4. Lopez Lomong (U.S.A.) - 13:26.16 - Q
5. Hagos Gebrehiwet (Ethiopia) - 13:26.16 - Q
6. Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (Kenya) - 13:27.06
7. Arne Gabius (Germany) - 13:28.01
8. Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 13:28.71
9. Moukheld Al-Outaibi (Saudi Arabia) - 13:31.47
10. Bilisuma Shugi (Bahrain) - 13:31.84
-----
12. Yuki Sato (Japan) - 13:38.22

Men's 200 m Semi-Final One
1. Yohan Blake (Jamaica) - 20.01 - Q
2. Wallace Spearmon (U.S.A.) - 20.02 - Q
3. Christophe Lemaitre (France) - 20.03 - q
-----
8. Kei Takase (Japan) - 20.70

Men's 200 m Semi-Final Three
1. Churandy Martina (Netherlands) - 20.17 - Q
2. Warren Weir (Jamaica) - 20.28 - Q
3. Christian Malcom (U.K.) - 20.51
-----
6. Shinji Takahira (Japan) - 20.77

Men's Javelin Throw Qualification Round Group A
1. Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway) - 84.47 m - Q
2. Spiridon Lebesis (Greece) - 82.40 - Q
3. Stuart Farquhar (New Zealand) - 82.32 - Q
-----
14. Yukifumi Murakami (Japan) - 77.80

Men's Javelin Throw Qualification Round Group B
1. Vitezslav Vesely (Czech Republic) - 88.34 - QPB
2. Tero Pitkamaki (Finland) - 83.01 - Q
3. Oleksandr Pyatnytsya (Ukraine) - 82.72 - Q
4. Genki Dean (Japan) - 82.07 - Q

Men's Pole Vault Qualification Round Group A
1. Konstadinos Filippidis (Greece) - 5.60 - q
2. Evgeniy Lukyanenko (Russia) - 5.60 - q
3. Romain Mesnil (France) - 5.60 - q
-----
NM - Seito Yamamoto (Japan)

Men's Decathlon After Event Five
1. Ashton Eaton (U.S.A.) - 4661
2. Trey Hardee (U.S.A.) - 4441
3. Damian Warner (Canada) - 4386
-----
26. Keisuke Ushiro (Japan) - 3848

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

London Olympics Athletics Day Five - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

As in the 10000 m, Japanese women did the lion's share of the work in ensuring fast times in both heats of the women's 5000 m.  Ranked well outside the top five of her heat, 5000 m national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) needed a fast race to have a chance at making the final.  She took Heat One out at a solid 3:01 and led the next three km at a steady 3:03/km, but despite going under 3 minutes for the final km she was outkicked over the final lap by the pursuing pack, falling to 8th in a season-best 15:09.31 behind winner Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) who led three under 15 minutes in 14:58.48.

It looked as though Fukushi might have a shot at making the final on time after 5000 m national champion Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) took Heat Two out slightly slower, but despite winner Gelete Burka (Ethiopia) running only 15:01.44 a denser pack meant Fukushi was shut out.  Niiya almost tied Fukushi on time, improving from #10 to #7 on the all-time Japanese list with a 15:10.20 for 10th, but likewise did not advance.  Three spots behind Niiya, 10000 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) ran a PB of 15:16.77.

In the men's 200 m, 2012 national champion Kei Takase (Team Fujitsu) and Beijing Olympics 4x100 m relay bronze medalist Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu) finished 2nd and 3rd in their heats to advance to the semi-finals.  2010 World Junior Championships 200 m gold medalist Shota Iizuka (Chuo Univ.) finished only 5th in his heat and did not advance.  Women's javelin national record holder Yuki Ebihara (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) also failed to advance out of the qualification round.  In the men's triathlon, despite briefly leading on the bike stage Hirokatsu Tayama could do no better than 20th by the end of the run stage.  His teammate Yuichi Hosoda was only 43rd.

2012 London Olympics Athletics Day Five
London, England, 8/7/12
click here for complete results
click here for triathlon results

Women's 5000 m Heat One
1. Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 14:58.48 - Q
2. Meseret Defar (Ethiopia) - 14:58.70 - Q
3. Viola Jelagat Kibiwot (Kenya) - 14:59.31 - Q
4. Olga Golovkina (Russia) - 15:05.26 - Q, PB
5. Julie Culley (U.S.A.) - 15:05.38 - Q, PB
6. Tejitu Daba (Bahrain) - 15:05.59 - q, PB
7. Silvia Weissteiner (Italy) - 15:06.81
8. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 15:09.31
9. Barbara Parker (U.K.) - 15:12.81 - PB
10. Fionnuala Britton (Ireland) - 15:12.97 - PB

Women's 5000 m Heat Two
1. Gelete Burka (Ethiopia) - 15:01.44 - Q
2. Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 15:01.54 - Q
3. Saly Jepkosgei Kipyego (Kenya) - 15:01.87 - Q
4. Julia Bleasdale (U.K.) - 15:02.00 - Q, PB
5. Molly Huddle (U.S.A.) - 15:02.26 - Q
6. Yelena Nagovitsyna (Russia) - 15:02.80 - q, PB
7. Joanne Pavey (U.K.) - 15:02.84 - q
8. Shitaye Eshete (Bahrain) - 15:05.48 - q, PB
9. Elena Romagnolo (Italy) - 15:06.38 - q, PB
10. Hitomi Niiya (Japan) - 15:10.20 - PB
-----
13. Mika Yoshikawa (Japan) - 15:16.77 - PB

Men's 200 m Heat Three
1. Maurice Mitchell (U.S.A.) - 20.54 - Q
2. Christian Malcom (U.K.) - 20.59 - Q
3. Michael Mathieu (Bahamas) - 20.62 - Q
-----
5. Shota Iizuka (Japan) - 20.81

Men's 200 m Heat Six
1. Alex Quinonez (Ecuador) - 20.28 - Q, NR
2. Wallace Spearmon (U.S.A.) - 20.47 - Q
3. Shinji Takahira (Japan) - 20.57 - Q
4. Brendan Christian (Antigua) - 20.63 - q

Men's 200 m Heat Seven
1. Churandy Martina (Netherlands) - 20.58 - Q
2. Kei Takase (Japan) - 20.72 - Q
3. Jared Connaughton (Canada) - 20.72 - Q

Women's Javelin Qualification Round Group B
1. Sunette Viljoen (South Africa) - 65.92 m - Q
2. Huihui Lu (China) - 64.45 m - Q
3. Maria Abakumova (Russia) - 63.25 - Q
-----
8. Yuki Ebihara (Japan) - 59.25 m

Men's Triathlon
1. Alistair Brownlee (U.K.) - 1:46:25
2. Javier Gomez (Spain) - 1:46:36
3. Jonathan Brownlee (U.K.) - 1:46:56
-----
20. Hirokatsu Tayama (Japan) - 1:49:24
43. Yuichi Hosoda (Japan) - 1:51:40
DNF - Simon Whitfield (Canada)

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reseved

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Failure of Japanese Women's Marathoning - Lazy, Self-Indulgent Training

http://www.tokyo-sports.co.jp/sports/28609/

translated by Brett Larner

The views expressed in this editorial are those of the original author.

In a rainy Olympic women's marathon, the top Japanese finisher was Ryoko Kizaki (27, Team Daihatsu), 16th in 2:27:16 as the Japanese women missed out on the medals and even the top ten for the second Olympiad in a row.  Yoshimi Ozaki (31, Team Daiichi Seimei) was 19th in 2:27:43, while Risa Shigetomo (24, Team Tenmaya) ran 2:40:06 for a lowly 79th place.  By comparison, Tiki Gelana (24, Ethiopia) set a new Olympic record as she won in 2:23:07.  The Japanese women were totally defeated and could not even improve on top Beijing Olympics Japanese finisher* Yurika Nakamura's 13th place.  What has happened to Japan?

"It's not so much that the international level has gotten more competitive, it's more that Japan has stopped going anywhere," says double Olympic marathon medalist and TV commentator Yuko Arimori (45).  She feels that one of the main reasons is the way the runners train nowadays.  "I'm not familiar with every single team's way of doing things," she qualifies, "but these days our athletes are only doing 'doable' training."

In other words, our runners are only training at a level they can handle.  "No matter whether you crash and burn, when you do the workouts you really hate, that's when you find out what really suits you and when you grow.  Back in our time it was unthinkable that a coach would discuss the training plan with the athlete."  Rebuilidng the historic success of Japanese women's marathoning will only happen on the bedrock of those hard, unpleasant workouts they don't want to run, she emphasizes.

With regard to this year's Olympic team, Los Angeles Olympic marathoner and former federation Long Distance Development Committee member Shigeru Soh (59) commented, "The best PB among our women this time was 2:23.  If you compare it to past Olympics that is 2-3 minutes slower.  Being able to get on the Olympic team with a time like that pretty well represents the state of things in Japan now.  I think both the quality and quantity of their training is going down.  We don't have any athletes who can train hard like Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchi used to."

Will our women marathoners be able to turn things around in the future?

*Translator's note: Nakamura was the only Japanese woman to finish in Beijing after just two started.

Kiumbani, Shitara Break Stage Records at 65th Towada Hachimantai Ekiden

by Brett Larner

A select team of corporate runners from the East Japan region outran strong corporate teams Honda and Fujitsu along with 2012 Hakone Ekiden winners Toyo University to take the overall win at the 65th running of the Towada Hachimantai Ekiden, Aug. 7 in Kazuno, Akita.

Toyo sophomore Masaya Taguchi took down all comers on the First Stage, opening a gap of 15 seconds over the 13.6 km leg.  His teammate Keita Shitara broke the course record on the Second Stage, covering 12.4 km in 37:04, but from behind him the East Japan team's Johnson Kiumbani, regularly with Team Konica Minolta, blazed a 36:17 record to put East Japan ahead by 22 seconds.  From there the team never looked back as they widened their lead to a final winning margin of 2:07 by the end of the 73.8 km race, clocking 3:43:10.

Toyo fell to 7th on the Third Stage after a poor run from Hiroaki Koike and remained around the same position the rest of the race, overtaken by five corporate teams but holding off collegiate rivals Nihon University's A-team to take the top university position.  The Honda corporate team had a weak start after opening runner Takahiro Yamanaka finished only 13th, but over the remaining three stages they progressively moved forward to 2nd.  Fujitsu anchor Norimasa Nishina started in 5th and gave Honda anchor Minoru Ikebe a good scare, advancing to within one second but unable to close the gap as Ikebe held on to cross the line in 3:45:17 with Nishina just behind in 3:45:18.

65th Towada Hachimantai Ekiden
Kazuno, Akita, 8/7/12
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (13.6 km)
1. Masaya Taguchi (Toyo Univ.) - 40:34
2. Soji Ikeda (Team Yakult) - 40:49
3. Yoshiyuki Oseki (E. Japan Corp. Select Team) - 40:59

Second Stage (12.4 km)
1. Johnson Kiumbani (Kenya/E. Japan Corp. Select Team) - 36:17 - CR
2. Keita Shitara (Toyo Univ.) - 37:04 (CR)
3. Yosuke Kantsuka (Team Honda) - 37:25

Third Stage (16.2 km)
1. Daniel Mwiba Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ. B) - 45:22
2. Benjamin Gandu (Kenya/Nihon Univ. A) - 45:31
3. Asmerau Mengistu (Ethiopia/Team Honda) - 45:46
4. Johana Maina (Kenya/Team Fujitsu) - 46:00
5. Masaki Ito (E. Japan Corp. Select Team) - 46:13

Fourth Stage (16.4 km)
1. Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 49:17
2. Yusuke Hosaka (Team Yachio Kogyo) - 49:38
3. Keita Baba (Team Honda) - 49:39

Fifth Stage (14.1 km, uphill)
1. Hidehito Takamine (E. Japan Corp. Select Team) - 49:46
2. Norimasa Nishina (Team Fujitsu) - 50:03
3. Hideaki Tamura (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 50:43

Top Team Results - five stages, 73.8 km, 37 teams
1. East Japan Corporate Select Team - 3:43:10
2. Team Honda - 3:45:17
3. Team Fujitsu - 3:45:18
4. Team Komori Corporation - 3:46:28
5. Team Yachiyo Kogyo - 3:46:56
6. Team JR Higashi Nihon - 3:47:20
7. Toyo University - 3:48:02
8. Team Yakult - 3:48:16
9. Nihon University A - 3:49:07
10. Team Nishitetsu A - 3:52:21

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

London Olymics Athletics Day Four - Japanese Results

London, England, 8/6/12
click here for complete results

Women's 400 mH Semi-Final Three
1. Muizat Ajoke Odumosu (Nigeria) - 54.40 - Q, NR
2. Georganne Moline (U.S.A.) - 54.74 - Q
3. Denisa Rosolova (Czech Republic) - 54.87 - q
-----
8. Satomi Kubokura (Japan) - 56.25

Men's 800 m Heat Five
1. Hamada Mohamed (Egypt) - 1:48.05 - Q
2. Sajad Moradi (Iran) - 1:48.23 - Q
3. Kevin Lopez (Spain) - 1:48.27 - Q
4. Masato Yokota (Japan) - 1:48.48

Women's 200 m Heat Three
1. Carmelita Jeter (U.S.A.) - 22.65 - Q
2. Abiodun Oyepitan (U.K.) - 22.92 - Q
3. Sherone Simpson (Jamaica) - 22.97 - Q
-----
7. Chisato Fukushima (Japan) - 24.14

Women's 100 mH Heat One
1. Alina Talay (Belarus) - 12.71 - Q, PB
2. Jessica Zelinka (Canada) - 12.75 - Q
3. Tiffany Porter (U.K.) - 12.79 - Q
-----
7. Ayako Kimura (Japan) - 13.75

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, August 6, 2012

Japanese Olympic Team Profiles - Men's Marathon

by Brett Larner

Japanese men haven't won an Olympic marathon medal since 1992 when Koichi Morishita took silver in Barcelona.  The landscape has changed dramatically since Beijing, and no doubt few outside Japan consider any of this year's strong team to be in contention to end the twenty-year drought.  In Japan, it's another story.

2010's top Japanese man, ex-corporate league independent Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) returned from 15 months of setbacks to run 2:07:48 for 2nd at this year's Tokyo Marathon, in the process becoming the all-time 7-th best Japanese man over the marathon distance.  Since then he has replaced civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) as the focus of Japanese marathon hopes.  Most consider him one of the country's best chances for an Olympic medal, and the best among the three men and three women in the event the Japanese love the most.

In 2010 after leaving the corporate league to go independent Fujiwara approached JRN about working together on his overseas racing.  The first of those races, the 2010 Ottawa Marathon, saw Fujiwara win in a course record 2:09:34, the first Japanese men's overseas sub-2:10 win in 23 years.  Including this race Fujiwara has five good marathons to his name, all with top three finishes and all sub-2:10 save a 2:12:34 for 2nd at the 2010 Tokyo Marathon in freezing rain and sleet.  When he is on, he's on.  Tokyo this year was the first time he looked mature and in control in a marathon, and with a solid group of sponsors now behind him he is in a good place mentally and training-wise, meeting all of his spring and summer tune-up racing goals and glowing with confidence.  He believes he has a shot against the best from Ethiopia and Kenya and is shooting for a 2:07 regardless of where that places him.  Only two men, Beijing gold and silver medalists Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) and Jaouad Gharib (Morocco) have ever achieved that kind of time at the Olympics.

Unfortunately Fujiwara has a dark side.  Excluding the 10 km of the Beijing pre-Olympic test marathon which he ran for practice as Olympic team alternate, Fujiwara's other five marathons have been atrocious, averaging an amateur-quality 2:30:33 for the four he finished and including a 2:31:06 for 61st at the 2009 Berlin World Championships and a DNF at the 2010 New York City Marathon.  His wild instability means that no matter how good he looks at this stage he is in no way a safe bet.  It would not be surprising to see him get into the medals, and neither would it be surprising to see him finish outside the top 25, or worse.....

At the other end of the spectrum is his former college roommate Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki).  A year younger, Nakamoto made his marathon debut eleven months after Fujiwara with a 2:13:54 for 3rd at the 2008 Nobeoka Nishi Nihon Marathon.  Since then he has run a PB every year without fail; after running 2:09:31 for 4th at last year's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon to make the Daegu World Championships team Nakamoto said, "Now I understand what I have to do to run 2:08."  Sure enough, at this year's Lake Biwa he ran 2:08:53 for 5th to make the London team.  In eight marathons including Daegu he has never finished outside the top ten, whether in heat, ideal conditions or freezing rain.

Quiet and focused, he has mostly stayed out of the spotlight in the pre-Olympic buildup.  In one of his few spring races post-Lake Biwa he notably broke 29 minutes for the first time with a 28:54.59 PB at a local time trial meet in May, following up a week later with a 5th-place finish at the BUPA London 10000 road race behind future London Olympics 10000 m gold medalist Mo Farah (U.K.) and Fujiwara among others.

While Fujiwara relocated his training base to California and Switzerland to prepare for London, Nakamoto chose to remain at home and train on his usual grounds in Oita, saying, "Every summer I train somewhere with a lot of hills, so if I train the way I do every year it'll be fine."  He is also unambiguous about his goals: "To be the top Japanese man.  Top eight is also a goal."  While Fujiwara may be more talented, there is no question that Nakamoto actually understands what he is doing and is going about it in a systematic way, and he looks ready for his best race yet.  He may have no realistic chance at a medal, but it will be genuinely surprising if Nakamoto does not make top ten again.

The third man on the London team, former Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage specialist for Chuo University Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express), is the least experienced of them, with only four marathons to his name.  Like Fujiwara, his resume is evenly split.  Two have been great, an inspiring come-from-behind 2nd place finish in his debut at the 2009 Hokkaido Marathon in 2:12:10, one of the fastest times ever run at Japan's hot summer marathon, and another come-from-behind gem to run Nakamoto down on the track at this year's Lake Biwa for 4th in 2:08:44. The other two, a 2:22:32 at the 2010 Tokyo Marathon and a 2:16:49 back at Hokkaido in 2011, were far less successful.

Since making London off his 2:08:44 Yamamoto has been well sub-par, his major performances being a 23rd-place 29:16.55 in June's National Track & Field Championships 10000 m and an 18th-place finish in 1:03:48 three weeks later at the hot Sapporo International Half Marathon.  Although the progression there seems to be in a positive direction it is hard to read his current fitness level from his results.  As such he will be the biggest question mark on the Japanese team heading into the final day of Olympic competition.

Detailed profiles follow below:

Arata Fujiwara

Club: Miki House
Born: Sept. 12, 1981 in Nagasaki
Graduated: Takushoku Univ., Isahaya H.S.
Coach: self-coached


PBs:
marathon: 2:07:48 - Tokyo, 2012
half-marathon: 1:01:34 - Marugame, 2012
10000 m: 28:41.05 - Fukagawa, 2009
5000 m: 13:41.35 - 2006

Marathon history:
2:07:48 - 2012 Tokyo Marathon, 2nd
2:29:21 - 2011 Tokyo Marathon, 57th
DNF - 2010 New York City Marathon
2:09:34 - 2010 Ottawa Marathon, 1st - CR
2:12:34 - 2010 Tokyo Marathon, 2nd
2:31:06 - 2009 Berlin World Championships, 61st
2:09:47 - 2008 Fukuoka International Marathon, 3rd
2:23:10 - 2008 Chicago Marathon, 16th
2:08:40 - 2008 Tokyo Marathon, 2nd
2:38:37 - 2007 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 85th

Kentaro Nakamoto

Corporate Team: Yasukawa Denki
Born: Dec. 7, 1982 in Yamaguchi
Graduated: Takushoku Univ., Nishiichi H.S.
Coach: Naoki Yamagashira


PBs:
marathon: 2:08:53 - Lake Biwa, 2012
half-marathon: 1:02:29 - Marugame, 2009
10000 m: 28:54.59 - Sayagatani, 2012
5000 m: 14:04.31 - Nobeoka, 2011

Marathon history:
2:08:53 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 5th
2:13:10 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 10th
2:09:31 - 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 4th
2:12:38 - 2010 Amsterdam Marathon, 9th
2:11:42 - 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, 8th
2:13:53 - 2009 Tokyo Marathon, 9th
2:15:21 - 2008 Hokkaido Marathon, 2nd
2:13:54 - 2008 Nobeoka Nishi Nihon Marathon, 3rd

Ryo Yamamoto

Corporate Team: Sagawa Express
Born: May 18, 1984 in Hyogo
Graduated: Chuo Univ., Nagata H.S.
Coach: Tsuyoshi Nakano


PBs:
marathon: 2:08:44 - Lake Biwa, 2012
half-marathon: 1:01:54 - Marugame, 2012
10000 m: 28:22.84 - Nittai Univ., 2011
5000 m: 13:54.96

Marathon history:
2:08:44 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 4th
2:16:49 - 2011 Hokkaido Marathon, 5th
2:22:32 - 2010 Tokyo Marathon, 22nd
2:12:10 - 2009 Hokkaido Marathon, 2nd

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 5, 2012

London Olympics Women's Marathon and Athletics Day Three Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

photos by Horst Milde


Japan's results in the London Olympics women's marathon gave a fair account of the state of the sport in the country, an improvement over Beijing with all three women finishing and two under 2:28 versus one finisher in 2:30:19 four years ago, but where Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) was 13th in Beijing the highest finisher this time, autumn 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), was only 16th.  Despite a fall at a drink station just past halfway, former Team Denso runner Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) won gold to continue the legacy of Japan-trained African Olympic marathon medalists, outkicking 2011 Daegu World Championships silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo and Russia's Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova, a top-five finisher at both the 2011 and 2012 Tokyo Marathons.

2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) was among the early pacesetters, running in the front line of the dense pack throughout the early kilometers despite training setbacks as Kizaki and 2009 Berlin World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) sat back in the pack.  One of Shigetomo's predecessors as Osaka champ, Mara Yamauchi (U.K.) was among the earliest casualties, dropping out before 10 km.  Abruptly falling off the lead pack, Shigetomo rallied to return to the front with Ozaki at 15 km to push the pace but within a few minutes had fallen off again, this time for good.

By 20 km Ozaki was also having trouble maintaining contact with the leaders, and by the halfway mark, 1:13:13, she was a few seconds adrift.  Kizaki soon followed suit, and from there it was something of a see-saw, with Ozaki and Kizaki trading places and alternately moving up on the lead pack and falling behind again.  When the big move came from the three Ethiopian and three Kenyan women before 25 km it was all over for Japanese hopes.

As the six African leaders pushed on toward the Olympic record some began to struggle and fall off.  Chasers including Arkhipova, 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon runner-up Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine), Japanese-coached Xiaolin Zhu (China) and 2012 Nagoya International Women's Marathon winner Albina Mayorova began picking off stragglers including 2011 Daegu World Championships gold medalist Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) and Ethiopian half-marathon national record holder Mare Dibaba.

Arkhipova's addition to the lead group increased the pressure, and when Gelana made her move gold medal favorite Mary Keitany (Kenya) was the one left unable to respond, falling behind to fourth as the three medalists sped away.  Gelana's winning time of 2:23:07 broke Naoko Takahashi's long-standing Olympic record of 2:23:14 from the Sydney Olympics, with Jeptoo also under the record in 2:23:12.  Arkhipova took over a minute and a half off her best for bronze in 2:23:29.  As in Yokohama last fall, Kizaki prevailed over Ozaki, across the line in 16th in 2:27:16 to Ozaki's 19th-place 2:27:43.  Shigetomo managed to finish in 2:40:06 for 79th.

In other results on the third day of track and field competition, 2011 men's hammer throw world champion Koji Murofushi (Mizuno) showed obvious disappointment with his bronze medal placing, Japan's first medal of the games in a track or field event.  Sprint sensation Ryota Yamagata (Keio Univ.) ran 10.10 in the men's 100 m semi-final, but, up against the likes of Yohan Blake (Jamaica) and Tyson Gay (U.S.A.), he did not advance to the final.  Women's 400 mH national champion Satomi Kubokura (Niigata Albirex AC) went on to the semi-finals on time after finishing 5th in her heat in 55.85, joining Murofushi and Yamagata as the only Japanese athletes to make it out of the opening rounds of their events thus far.

2012 London Olympics Athletics Day Three
London, England, 8/5/12
click here for complete results

Women's Marathon
1. Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:23:07 - OR
2. Priscah Jeptoo (Kenya) - 2:23:12
3. Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova (Russia) - 2:23:29 - PB
4. Mary Keitany (Kenya) - 2:23:56
5. Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:24:32 - NR
6. Xiaolin Zhu (China) - 2:24:48
7. Jessica Augusto (Portugal) - 2:25:11
8. Valeria Straneo (Italy) - 2:25:27
9. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:25:38
10. Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.) - 2:25:51
-----
16. Ryoko Kizaki (Japan) - 2:27:16
19. Yoshimi Ozaki (Japan) - 2:27:43
79. Risa Shigetomo (Japan) - 2:40:06

DNF - Mara Yamauchi (U.K.)
DNF - Lornah Kiplagat (Netherlands)
DNF - Liliya Shobukhova (Russia)
DNF - Desiree Davila (U.S.A.)

Men's Hammer Throw Final
1. Krisztian Pars (Hungary) - 80.59
2. Primoz Kozmus (Slovenia) - 79.36
3. Koji Murofushi (Japan) - 78.81

Men's 100 m Semi-Final Three
1. Yohan Blake (Jamaica) - 9.85 - Q
2. Tyson Gay (U.S.A.) - 9.90 - Q
3. Adam Gemili (U.K.) - 10.06
-----
6. Ryota Yamagata (Japan) - 10.10

Women's 400 mH Heat Five
1. Perri Shakes-Drayton (U.K.) - 54.62 - Q
2. Melaine Walker (Jamaica) - 54.78 - Q
3. Hanna Yaroshchuk (Ukraine) - 54.81 - Q
4. Hayat Lambarki (Morocco) - 55.58 - Q
5. Satomi Kubokura (Japan) - 55.85 - q

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2012 Horst Milde
all rights reserved

London Olympics Athletics Day Two - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

The big race of the second day of Olympic track and field competition was of course the historic men's 10000 m, which saw training partners Mo Farah (U.K.) and Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) go 1-2 to give the U.K. its first-ever Olympic 10000 m gold and the U.S. its first men's 10000 m medal since the Tokyo Olympics.  Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele claimed bronze over his brother Kenenisa Bekele, with Saitama-based Bitan Karoki, a graduate of Hiroshima's Sera H.S. who now runs for Team S&B, taking 5th to land as the top Kenyan after losing out to the superior closing speed of the top four.  Two-time Japanese 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), the only Japanese man in the race, ran up to expectations, sitting mid-pack through the slow early stages before falling away once the true action began and crossing the finish line in 28:44.06 for 22nd place.

100 m national champion Takayuki Kishimoto (Keio Univ.) had better luck, bringing the Japanese performance of the day as he ran a PB of 10.07 to take second in heat six behind world leader Yohan Blake (Jamaica) and advance to the semi-final.  Past national champion Masashi Eriguchi (Team Osaka Gas) ran only 10.30 in heat two and failed to move on to the next round.  400 m national champion Yuzo Kanemaru (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and women's pole vault national record holder Tomomi Abiko (Shiga Lake Stars AC) likewise did not advance out of the opening rounds.

2012 London Olympics Athletics Day Two
London, England, 8/4/12
click here for complete results
click here for triathlon results

Men's 10000 m
1. Mohamed Farah (U.K.) - 27:30.42
2. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 27:30.90
3. Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) - 27:31.43
4. Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) - 27:32.44
5. Bitan Karoki (Kenya) - 27:32.94
6. Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) - 27:33.51
7. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 27:34.76
8. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (Ethiopia) - 27:36.34
9. Polat Kemboi Arikan (Turkey) - 27:38.81 - PB
10. Moses Ndiema Kipsiro (Uganda) - 27:39.22
-----
22. Yuki Sato (Japan) - 28:44.06

Men's 20 km Race Walk
1. Ding Chen (China) - 1:18:46 - OR
2. Erick Barrondo (Guatemala) - 1:18:57
3. Zhen Wang (China) - 1:19:25
4. Zelin Cai (China) - 1:19:44
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Spain) - 1:19:49 - PB
-----
18. Isamu Fujisawa (Japan) - 1:21:48
25. Takumi Saito (Japan) - 1:22:43
36. Yusuke Suzuki (Japan) - 1:23:53

Women's Triathlon
1. Nicola Spirig (Switzerland) - 1:59:48
2. Lisa Norden (Sweden) - 1:59:48
3. Erin Densham (Australia) - 1:59:50
4. Sarah Groff (U.S.A.) - 2:00:00
5. Helen Jenkins (U.K.) - 2:00:19
-----
14. Mariko Adachi (Japan) - 2:02:04
34. Juri Ide (Japan) - 2:04:43
39. Ai Ueda (Japan) - 2:06:34

Men's 400 m Heat Five
1. Chris Brown (Bahamas) - 45.40 - Q
2. Tony McQuay (U.S.A.) - 45.48 - Q
3. Nigel Levine (U.K.) - 45.58 - Q
4. Yuzo Kanemaru (Japan) - 46.01

Men's 100 m Heat Two
1. Justin Gatlin (U.S.A.) - 9.97 - Q
2. Derrick Atkins (Bahamas) - 10.22 - Q
3. Rondel Sorrillo (Trinidad & Tobago) - 10.23 - Q
-----
6. Masashi Eriguchi (Japan) - 10.30

Men's 100 m Heat Six
1. Yohan Blake (Jamaica) - 10.00 - Q
2. Ryota Yamagata (Japan) - 10.07 - Q, PB
3. Bingtian Su (China) - 10.19 - Q
4. Antoine Adams (St. Kitts & Nevis) - 10.22 - q

Women's Pole Vault Qualification Round Group A
1. Yarisley Silva (Cuba) - 4.55 - q
2. Jennifer Suhr (U.S.A.) - 4.55 - q
3. Lisa Ryzih (Germnay) - 4.55 - q
-----
11. Tomomi Abiko (Japan) - 4.25

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, August 4, 2012

London Olympics Athletics Day One - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Niiya, Yoshikawa and Fukushi set the tone of the women's 10000 m.

Photo courtesy Martin Lever, www.one-man-running-club.com







The highlights of the first day of track and field competition at the London Olympics on the Japanese team came courtesy of two of the best people returning from the Daegu World Championships team. In the women's 10000 m, Japanese runners Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) and Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) would have none of the slow pace the rest of the field set, breaking away as a trio to lead a 3:06 opening km, joined by Ireland's Fionnuala Britton.  Niiya, the 5000 m national champion and the greatest credit to the Japanese track contingent in Daegu, took over the lead from Fukushi after 1000 m and, showing no signs of it being only her second track 10000 m, held position until nearly 5000 m even after the Kenyan and Ethiopian contingents took the Japanese challenge seriously and moved to stay in touch.  Although 10000 m national champion Yoshikawa fell away early when the race really got moving in the second half, Niiya and Fukushi held steady as the pace shifted around them.  Niiya finished 9th in 30:59.19, almost dead on her opening split pace, becoming only the third Japanese woman to ever break 31 minutes.  Fukushi was just behind her in 31:10.35, taking 10th in her best-ever Olympic 10000 m placing.  Yoshikawa faded to 16th but held on for sub-32 with a 31:47.67 final time.

Amply demonstrating his fully operational status, Daegu men's hammer throw gold medalist Koji Murofushi (Mizuno) led Group A in the qualification round with a season-best 78.48 m on his second throw, one of only three men in both groups to clear the 78.00 m automatic qualifying mark. Only Group B leader Krisztian Pars (Hungary) threw further, with a 79.37 m, putting Murofushi in good stead for the medals.

Another of Japan's best medal hopes, Hosei University's 400 mH national champion Takayuki Kishimoto, had trouble living up to the pressure of being ranked 4th in his Olympic debut and failed to advance out of his heat.  His fellow collegiate hurdlers Akihiko Nakamura (Chukyo Univ.) and Tetsuya Tateno (Chuo Univ.) and women's 100 m national record holder Chisato Fukushima (Hokkaido Hi-Tec AC) likewise did not advance beyond the opening round.

2012 London Olympics Athletics Day One
London, England, 8/3/12
click here for complete results

Women's 10000 m
1. Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 30:20.75
2. Sally Kipyego (Kenya) - 30:26.37 - PB
3. Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 30:30.44 - PB
4. Werknesh Kidane (Ethiopia) - 30:39.38
5. Beleynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) - 30:45.56
6. Shitaye Eshete (Bahrain) - 30:47.25 - NR
7. Joanne Pavey (U.K.) - 30:53.20 - PB
8. Julia Bleasdale (U.K.) - 30:55.63 - PB
9. Hitomi Niiya (Japan) - 30:59.19 - PB
10. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 31:10.35
-----
16. Mika Yoshikawa (Japan) - 31:47.67
DNF - Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya)

Women's 100 m Heat 5
1. Allyson Felix (U.S.A.) - 11.01 - Q
2. Rosangela Santos (Brazil) - 11.07 - Q
3. Ruddy Zang Milama (Gabon) - 11.14 - Q
-----
5. Chisato Fukushima (Japan) - 11.41

Men's 400 mH Heat 1
1. Amaurys R. Valle (Cuba) - 49.19 - Q, PB
2. Brendan Cole (Australia) - 49.24 - Q, PB
3. Amaechi Morton (Nigeria) - 49.34 - Q
-----
DQ - Takayuki Kishimoto (Japan)

Men's 400 mH Heat 2
1. Michael Tinsley (U.S.A.) - 49.13 - Q
2. Leford Green (Jamaica) - 49.30 - Q
3. Kurt Couto (Mozambique) - 49.31 - Q
-----
DQ - Akihiko Nakamura (Japan)

Men's 400 mH Heat 6
1. Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic) - 49.24 - Q
2. Jack Green (U.K.) - 49.49 - Q
3. Mamadou Kasse Hanne (Senegal) - 49.63 - Q
4. Tetsuya Tateno (Japan) - 49.95

Men's Hammer Throw Qualification Round Group A
1. Koji Murofushi (Japan) - 78.48 - Q
2. Primoz Kozmus (Slovenia) - 78.12 - Q
3. Olexiy Sokyrskiyy (Ukraine) - 77.65 - q

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photo (c) 2012 Martin Lever
all rights reserved

Friday, August 3, 2012

Japanese Olympic Team Profiles - Sprints, Hurdles and Walks

by Brett Larner

Japan's best chances for athletics medals in London may come in the men's 400 m hurdles and 50 km race walk.  Hosei University's Takayuki Kishimoto dropped a major PB of 48.41 to win June's National Championships/Olympic Trials and find himself ranked 5th in the world and 4th in the Olympic field.  With little championship experience to his name it will be tough for him to stand up to the pressure of his Olympic debut, but still on an upward roll he could edge his way in for some hardware.

50 km race walk national record holder Yuki Yamazaki (SDF Academy) comes into the Olympics ranked 5th in the field by season best despite being well off his best.  With at least nine men holding faster PB marks it won't be easy for him to break into the medals, but a solid performance could earn him the bronze.

On the subject of bronze, the Japanese men's 4x100 m relay comes to London as the defending bronze medal squad.  Only one member of the Beijing lineup, Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu) returns, having improved his PB since Beijing from 10.29 to 10.20.  2010 and 2011 were bad years for him, but this year he has already tied his pre-Beijing best and could be in position to improve on his performance there.  As for the rest of the team, compare the Beijing and likely London lineups:
  • Beijing Olympics
    • Naoki Tsukahara: PB/SB ('08): 10.15
    • Shingo Suetsugu: PB: 10.03 / SB ('08): 10.55
    • Shinji Takahira: PB/SB ('08): 10.29
    • Nobuharu Asahara: PB: 10.02 / SB ('08): 10.17
  • London Olympics
    • Ryota Yamagata: PB/SB ('12): 10.08
    • Masashi Eriguchi: PB: 10.07 / SB ('08): 10.18
    • Shinji Takahira: PB: 10.20 / SB ('12): 10.29
    • Shota Iizuka: PB: 10.52
The London team compares pretty favorably on time, offset by the Beijing lineup's years working together on perfecting their exchanges.  Probable London anchor and 2010 World Jr. 200 m champion Shota Iizuka (Chuo University) looks like the weak link on paper, but he has this inside him:



If he can muster up the same magic, the team's exchanges gel, and, maybe, if the Americans bring their regular quality baton work, then who knows?  It happened once.


Men's Sprints


Masashi Eriguchi
100 m, 4x100 m relay
Corporate Team: Osaka Gas
Born: Dec. 17, 1988
PB: 10.07

Ryota Yamagata
100 m, 4x100 m relay
School: Keio University
Born: June 10, 1992
PB: 10.08

Shinji Takahira
200 m, 4x100 m relay
Corporate Team: Fujitsu
Born: July 18, 1984
PB: 20.22

Kei Takase
200 m, 4x400 m relay
Corporate Team: Fujitsu
Born: Nov. 25, 1988
PB: 20.42

Shota Iizuka 
200 m, 4x100 m relay
School: Chuo University
Born: June 25, 1991
PB: 20.45

Yuzo Kanemaru
400 m, 4x400 m relay
Corporate Team Otsuka Seiyaku
Born: Sept. 18, 1987
PB: 45.16

Takumi Kuki
4x100 m relay
School: Waseda University
PB: 10.25

Hiroyuki Nakano
4x400 m relay
School: Aichi Kyoiku University
PB: 45.81

Yoshihiro Azuma
4x400 m relay
School: Kansai University
PB: 46.26


Women's Sprints

Chisato Fukushima
100 m, 200 m, 4x100 m Relay
Club: Hokkaido Hi-Tec AC
Born: June 27, 1988
PBs: 11.21 - NR, 22.89 - NR

Momoko Takahashi
4x100 m Relay
Corporate Team: Fujitsu
PB: 11.32

Anna Doi
4x100 m Relay
School: Saitama Sakae H.S.
PB: 11.43

Kana Ichikawa
4x100 m Relay
School: Chukyo University
PB: 11.43


Yumeka Sano
4x100 m Relay
School: Tsuru Bunka University
PB: 11.59


Men's Hurdles
Takayuki Kishimoto
400 mH
School: Hosei University
Born: May 6, 1990
PB: 48.41

Akihiko Nakamura
400 mH
School: Chukyo University
Born: Oct. 23, 1990
PB: 49.38

Tetsuya Tateno 
400 mH
School: Chuo University
Born: Aug, 5, 1991
PB: 49.49


Women's Hurdles

Ayako Kimura
100 mH
Corporate Team: Edion
Born: June 11, 1988
PB: 13.04

Satomi Kubokura 
400 mH
Club: Niigata Albirex AC
Born: Apr. 27, 1982
PB: 55.34 - NR


Men's Walks

Yusuke Suzuki
20 km Race Walk
Corporate Team: Fujitsu
Born: Jan. 2, 1988
PB: 1:20:06

Isamu Fujisawa
20 km Race Walk
Corporate Team: Alsok
Born: Oct. 12, 1987
PB: 1:20:12

Takumi Saito
20 km Race Walk
School: Toyo University
Born: Mar. 23, 1993
PB: 1:21:01

Yuki Yamazaki
50 km Race Walk
Club: SDF Academy Born: Jan. 16, 1984
PB: 3:40:12 - NR

Takayuki Tanii 
50 km Race Walk
Corporate Team: Sagawa Express
Born: Feb. 14, 1983
PB: 3:43:56

Koichiro Morioka
50 km Race Walk
Corporate Team: Fujitsu
Born: Apr. 2, 1985
PB: 3:44:45


Women's Walks

Masumi Fuchise
20 km Race Walk
Corporate Team: Otsuka Seiyaku
Born: Sept. 2, 1986
PB: 1:28:03 - NR

Mayumi Kawasaki
20 km Race Walk
Corporate Team: Fujitsu
Born: May 10, 1980
PB: 1:28:49

Kumi Otoshi
20 km Race Walk
Corporate Team: Fujitsu
Born: July 29, 1985
PB: 1:29:11

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved