by Brett Larner
Ekiden News is scheduled to live stream the Golden Games in Nobeoka Meet, with the major events beginning at 7:00 p.m. Japan time on May 11. Watch live here.
This weekend marks the start of three straight weeks of regional championship track action in the lead-up to the June 7-9 National Championships. The biggest meet of the weekend is Saturday's Golden Games in Nobeoka, where the focus will be on the men's 10000 m. 2007 Osaka World Championships bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (Kenya/ Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) leads a field of thirteen, many collegiate men, looking to get under 28 and hopefully closer to joining Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) and Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) under the Moscow World Championships A-standard of 27:40.00. From Hakone Ekiden course record holder Toyo University are Keita and Yuta Shitara, looking to become the first Japanese twins to both go sub-28, and from National University Ekiden course record holder are Komazawa half marathon record holder Kenta Murayama, #2 Shinobu Kubota and 2013 National University Half Marathon champion Shogo Nakamura. Corporate men include former Toyo superstar Ryuji Kashiwabara (Team Fujitsu) and former Toyo captain Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei), 2012 national 5000 m champion Kazuya Deguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) and his teammate Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), who went under 27:45 as a university senior.
The A-heat of the men's 5000 m is also packed with talent including 2011 World XC Championships silver medalist Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko), 2010 national 5000 m champion Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and national 10000 m champion Kensuke Takezawa (Himeji T&F Assoc.), JRN's top-ranked Japanese man of 2012 Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo), Komazawa 10000 m record holder Ikuto Yufu and many more. The deceptively-labelled D-heat is likely to be the fastest, with twelve Japan-based Africans led by 2013 World XC Jr. silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) and two-time World Jr. steeplechase champion Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Team Hitachi Butsuryu), #1-ranked collegiate Osako and Murayama's identical twin brother Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.). The women's 5000 m is thinner but features 2011 national 5000 m champion Megumi Kinukawa (Mizuno AC), 2011 national corporate 10000 m champion Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki), Kenyans Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and Pauline Kamulu (Team Toto), former Ritsumeikan University ace Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) and others.
Three corporate league regions will also hold the first halves of their regional track and field championships, with the remaining regions squeezing everything into next weekend. 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) is on the list for the Chugoku region's 5000 m along with talented teammate Charles Ndirangu, but with Gitau also scheduled to run Sunday's Sendai International Half Marathon it's a question mark as to which race he will start. Likewise for Payton Jordan women's 10000 m 3rd-placer Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo), who will face 2013 National Corporate Half Marathon 3rd-placer Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) and 2013 Osaka International Women's Marathon 3rd-placer Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) if she starts in Chugoku. Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), all-time Japanese #3 for the half marathon and #7 over 10000 m, tops the list at the Chubu region meet after a failed run in the Payton Jordan 10000 m.
Lastly, Japan's biggest series of track time trials, the Nittai University Time Trials, continues with its second, somewhat impoverished, edition of the season. 2012 African XC champion Clement Langat (Kenya/Team Subaru) is virtually the only top-level name on the list, but also noteworthy in the 10000 m is independent Sho Matsumoto (Nichizei Business), a full-time worker who ran 2:13:38 at February's Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon and will race next month's Grandma's Marathon.
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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