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The Japanese national team for August's Moscow World Championships appeared at a press conference on July 25 at the Ajinomoto National Training Center in Kita-ku, Tokyo.
10000 m national champion Hitomi Niiya (25, Team Univ. Ent.) revealed that recently she has gotten into an eccentrically bizarre new hobby. "Watching videos of animals giving birth," she said. As she gained more international experience at the Daegu World Championships and last year's London Olympics, anxiety became more and more of an issue because, she said, "I'm in pursuit of perfection." To help relieve the stress and anxiety she took up watching the videos on an online site. "Did you know that when dogs give birth the mother eats the umbilical cord? It's true," she said. "We're not allowed to have pets in our team dormitory, so I go to pet shops all the time. It helps me forget about running." Is she going to run like an animal in Moscow? Her goal is to make the top six.
Men's 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (26, Team Nissin Shokuhin) ran an all-time Japanese third-best 13:13.60 for 5000 m at the July 13 KBC Night of Athletics in Belgium, missing the national record by 0.41 seconds but finishing only 8th. "I definitely got to experience how high the standard is at the international level," he said with a tightened facial expression. "If I let myself by satisfied with this then I'll never get any better." In his second-straight World Championships Sato said he is shooting for a time goal. "I want to break my PB in the 10000 m," he said with confidence. With regard to placing he said, "I'm aiming for a place in the single digits. I'm ready for that."
Marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (26, Saitama Pref. Gov't.) is also running his second-straight World Championships after running the marathon in Daegu. "This is my second time, so I know that I have to do something to improve on last time," he said. "I think the best approach is to make use of my experience. I have to be ready for any type of race no matter how it develops. In the first half I'm going to run in an inconspicuous position, and when somebody makes a move I will be right there to go after them." Daegu was only Kawauchi's third time racing outside Japan, but, he said, "Since then I've raced in Australia, Germany, Bulgaria and Egypt and have gotten a lot of international experience, so I am not afraid to compete against the rest of the world. I think that if I can bring my best performance then a top six finish is realistic."
In the men's sprints, 100 m national champion Ryota Yamagata (21, Keio Univ.), the rival of Yoshihide Kiryu (17, Rakunan H.S.) in the race for Japan's first sub-10 clocking, said, "Right now I'm feeling nervous. I've got to turn that around at some point." Kiryu was absent from the press conference, but up until the day before Yamagata was training with him and the rest of the 4x100 m relay team, focusing on improving the team's baton work. Seeing Kiryu in action forced Yamagata to up his time goal as well. "Kiryu must have been training in secret because he was looking incredibly smooth," he said.
Asked about recent revelations of widespread doping at the top level of the sport Yamagata took a positive outlook, saying, "I'm a track fan too so it's really sad, but it gives the rest of us more of a chance, for sure." With the cheating American and Jamaican athletes having kept him from realizing his dream of becoming Japan's first sprinter to make an Olympic men's 100 m final and from defending Japan's 4x100 m Olympic bronze, the downturn in those countries' fortunes can only be a plus this time around. Yamagata will run in Sunday's Twilight Games at Oda Field in Tokyo. With few races on his schedule the Twilight Games' main purpose for him will be to maintain his racing sense, but, he said, "It's a valuable opportunity, so I want to run my best there."
Kiryu and Yamagata's 4x100 m relay teammate, 200 m national champion Shota Iizuka (22, Chuo Univ.), has promised a full revolution. Doubling in the 200 m and the relay, Iizuka potentially faces three races in the individual event and two in the relay, something he is looking forward to. "I'm going to run all five races with all my strength," he said. "The relay final is on the last day, so I have to stay focused right to the end." Earlier this month Iizuka won bronze at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, and still feels some fatigue. "My body is still a little stiff," he said, but he plans to sweat out the fatigue with his usual weight and training routines. "I'm not feeling bad, so I just have to be careful about injury," he said. Like his 100 m counterparts, Iizuka hopes to achieve his dream of Japan's first sub-20 time and then to follow up with a relay medal.