by Brett Larner
The 2013 Japanese National Track and Field Championships kick off today at western Tokyo's Ajinomoto Stadium, three days of top-level domestic action with places on the national team for August's Moscow World Championships at stake. The Federation set multi-tiered standards for Worlds qualification this year. Any athlete with an A-standard mark who wins their event will automatically be on the team. Likewise for any athlete clearing an ambitious set of special qualifying marks, in many cases better than the Japanese national records, and finishes in the top eight. Any other A or B-standard athlete who makes the top three will also be given consideration.
Below is a quick guide to the Day One finals with the best head-to-head competitions and the most people likely to go on to Moscow. Click here for complete entry lists. JRN will be on-site to cover the meet each day, so check back for detailed coverage as the weekend progresses.
Women's 10000 m - June 7
Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) ran 30:59.19 at last summer's London Olympics and comes into Nationals as the only woman with a valid A-standard. Having broken the Federation's special qualifying mark of 31:12.79 she is guaranteed a place in Moscow if she finishes in the top eight. That should be a given, but she has been out of competition since a disastrous run at this year's World Cross Country Championships and is a large question mark. Likewise for junior national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Mizuno), on the list with a best of 31:10.02 but out of sight since last year's Olympic Trials. Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo) looks like the favorite, just missing the A-standard at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in 31:45.29 but coming in strong. 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) also holds a B-standard mark and could be in competition for a place if she is at full fitness after returning from training with American coach James Li. Likewise for Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku), holder of an A-standard 31:43.25 best but entering Nationals just off the B-standard in 32:07.70. 37-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) is the only other woman in the field to have ever broken the A-standard but holds a season best of only 32:20.98.
Men's 3000 mSC - June 7
No Japanese men have hit the 8:32.00 World Championships B-standard, but past national champions Jun Shinoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) and Tsuyoshi Takeda (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) have both improved their bests this season and are just a step away, Shinoto at 8:32.79 and Takeda at 8:33.48. A good one-on-one race could see the victor make it.
Men's Pole Vault - June 7
Three men, Daichi Sawano (Team Fujitsu), Seito Yamamoto (Chukyo Univ.) and Hiroki Ogita (Mizuno) have hit the 5.70 m A-standard mark, and with their nearest competition at only the 5.40 m level all three should make the national team if they go 1-2-3.
Women's Javelin Throw - June 7
Holding down the women's side of the current golden era of Japanese javelin, Yuki Ebihara (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) set a national record of 62.83 m to clear the A-standard this season. A top three finish will get her to Moscow, and with the next best competitor, Yuka Sato (Higashi Osaka Univ.), just under the B-standard in 59.22 m there isn't much chance of that not happening.
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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