Skip to main content

Fukushi Bronze on First Day of Moscow World Championships

by Brett Larner

The day Japanese marathon fans have been waiting for for years finally arrived as half-marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) finally stepped up to inherit the legacy of Olympic gold medalists Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) with a bronze medal in the women's marathon on the hot opening day of the 2013 Moscow World Championships, tough in the heat as the favorites faded. Noguchi, making a long-awaited comeback to world-level competition, was a DNF in the rough conditions, but third team member Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) ran a solid and steady race to take 4th.

Both Fukushi and Noguchi went with the fast early pace set by Italy's Valeria Straneo, but by 10 km Noguchi, running her first world-level marathon since her 2004 gold in Athens, could not keep up.  Fukushi stayed at the back of the lead pack as the numbers dwindled from eight to seven to four.  Kizaki stayed in the second pack for the first quarter of the race before making a move with defending gold medalist Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) to join the lead group.  The pair passed Noguchi just past 12 km, but while Kiplagat went on to the front Kizaki stalled and was stuck running most of the race alone.  By 30 km Noguchi had slowed to a walk, alternating brief periods of running before stopping again, and ultimately dropping out near 33 km.  Kizaki continued to push on, picking up the casualties one by one and moving up to 5th place.

Back in the lead pack Fukushi was biding her time against Straneo, Kiplagat and Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, but after 25 km she began to show the faintest signs of strain, at times falling a meter or two behind the rest of the group.  Just before 30 km a true gap suddenly appeared, and very quickly Fukushi was out of the lead trio and medal contention.

But, marathons are long and much can change.  As Straneo continued to apply pressure Melkamu dropped off at 33 km, making it a two-woman race for gold up front.  Fukushi could see Melkamu starting to come back and refocused, picking up the pace and catching her just past 35 km.  Melkamu tried to go with her, but after catching her breath a brief surge from Fukushi was all it took to put the Ethiopian away.  Seconds later, a defeated Melkamu dropped out of the race, leaving Fukushi free to run in alone for bronze and moving Kizaki up to 4th.

Fukushi ran strong over the final 5 km, losing some ground to Kiplagat and Straneo but continuing to wave to supporters and smile.  Kiplagat predictably had the finish she needed to become the first woman to defend a World Championships title, dropping Straneo to win by 14 seconds in a Russian all-comers' record 2:25:44.  Straneo and Fukushi, who came onto the track nearly two minutes back, also cleared the all-comers' record, Fukushi crossing the line in 2:27:45.

Fukushi earned Japan's first World Championships medal since Yoshimi Ozaki's silver in Berlin in 2009, showing strength over the final stages of the marathon for the first time in her five races to date.  In seventeen starts on Japanese national teams at the Olympics, World Championships, World XC Championships and World Road Running Championships it was also the first individual medal of her career.  It would have been hard to imagine her reaching this stage just after her now-legendary debut in 2008.  In a hilarious post-race interview she was all smiles and laughs, saying, "This was the first time in a long time that I felt like my old self.  I thought I had a shot at gold, but forget about it.  That's it for me and the marathon.  I'm done running them."  Combined with Kizaki's 4th the race hearkened back to the Japanese women's era of strength after five years of relative decline, and with Noguchi falling short of her dream of a successful comeback it feels like the transition from that era is complete.  It's now up to the Japanese men, with five sub-2:09 runners making up their marathon team, to follow Fukushi and Kizaki's examples next weekend.

Moscow World Championships Women's Marathon Top Results
Moscow, 8/10/13
click here for complete results

1. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:25:44 - ACR
2. Valeria Straneo (Italy) - 2:25:58 (ACR)
3. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 2:27:45 (ACR)
4. Ryoko Kizaki (Japan) - 2:31:28
5. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) - 2:32:38
6. Emma Quaglia (Italy) - 2:34:16
7. Madai Perez (Mexico) - 2:34:23
8. Hye-Gyong Kim (North Korea) - 2:35:49
9. Deena Kastor (U.S.A.) - 2:36:12
10. Susan Partridge (GBR) - 2:36:24
-----
DNF - Mizuki Noguchi (Japan)

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
Fukushi is a real character, has long been my favorite Japanese runner. I've liked her ever since a long ago interview in which the announcer asked her, after winning a race, so what are you aiming for next? It's an annoying question, when you've just finished a big race, but Japanese always say something like: The Olympics is 2 years away, so I'll start training for that. Fukushi said: I'm aiming to see how much beer I can drink tonight.
Anonymous said…
Yup, remember the beer comment well. But my personal favourite Fukushi memory was in about 2005(?), watching her do a Takamisakari impersonation on the start line of the Nat Champs 5000 or 10000 (which she duly won). Great to see her medal at Moscow.

Most-Read This Week

Nikkan Sports Reports Olympic Ticket Lottery Success Rate of 2.95% Within Company

The Nikkan Sports newspaper company conducted a survey of its employees' success rate at scoring tickets to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the ticket lottery drawing following the announcement of the lottery's results on June 20. Including the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field, gymnastics, tennis, badminton, baseball, softball and medal sessions in other major sports, out of the 1288 sessions for which Nikkan employees applied they won tickets to a total of 38 sessions. The success rate among survey respondents was just 2.95%, an indication of how hard it was to get tickets to Japan's home soil Olympics.

Translator's note: Of the 28 sessions I applied for I won tickets to three, two in athletics and one in archery. Including only medal sessions, I got tickets to two of the 22 to which I applied, both in athletics. Interestingly, one of the ones I didn't get was stadium seating for the men's marathon finish, showing what a hot ticket that is going be.

A…

17-Year-Old Ryuji Miura Breaks 3000 m Steeplechase High School Record in World-Leading Time

At the Kinki Region High School Track and Field Championships Saturday in Osaka’s Nagai Stadium, 17-year-old Ryuji Miura of Rakunan H.S. took down one of the oldest records in Japanese athletics, breaking the 30-year-old 3000 m steeplechase high school record by 5 seconds to win in 8:39.49.

Running in heavy rain after clocking the fastest time in the qualifying rounds, Miura went straight to the front in the final and was on his own within 200 m. From the start the record was in reach as he went through 1000 m in 2:49 and 2000 m in 5:43, building up a lead of about 200 m over the rest of the field.

Miura’s final time of 8:39.49 was the fastest in the world this year by an U18 athlete and 6th-best among U20 men, a new Japanese U18 record and all-time #2 for the U20 category. He came short of the outright Japanese high school record of 8:19.21 held by future marathon great Daniel Njenga, but took 5 seconds off the Japanese citizen high school record of 8:44.77 set back in 1989 by futu…

National Track and Field Championships Preview - Middle and Long Distance

The 2019 National Track and Field Championships start Thursday. With the 10000 m having been held last month in hopes of maximizing people's chances of hitting the standards for the Doha World Championships instead of doubling in the 5000 m, from 800 m to 5000 m, including the 3000 m steeplechase, the only event that has people already with the Doha standard set to toe the starting line is the women's 5000 m. It's also the only event that has African pacers lined up. Nozomi Tanaka (Toyota Jidoshokki TC), Tomoka Kimura (Shiseido) and Harumi Okamoto (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) have all cleared the 15:22 Doha standard inside the window, and if any of them wins she'll be named to the team. Others will have to wait until September for the JAAF's final decision. 10000 m national champion Rina Nabeshima (Japan Post) is the one who could ruin it for them, not holding the standard but having run 15:10.91 last year. Minami Yamanouchi (Kyocera) and Ririka Hironaka (Japan Post) s…