Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 New Year Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner



Jan.1 is the day for which Japan’s corporate men’s running league exists, the national championship New Year Ekiden. Seven-man teams from across the country square off over 100 km on stages ranging from 8.3 km for foreign runners to 22.0 km for the best pros, with all the action broadcast live nationwide on TBS starting at 8:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Defending champion Konica Minolta comes back as the heavy favorite, having won the Nov. 3 East Japan regional qualifier in course-record time by a minute and a half over 2012 New Year Ekiden course record setter Nissin Shokuhin. Nissin Shokuhin was strong to be sure with a stage record from ace Yuki Sato but Konica Minolta was just that much stronger, winning four of East Japan’s seven stages including two individual stage records. Anchor Tomohiro Tanigawa was the team’s secret weapon, just off the anchor stage record as he continued his quiet rise to Japan’s top ranks. Team Fujitsu took the remaining two individual stage titles in East Japan and, just eight seconds behind Nissin at the finish line, looks like the only other East Japan team capable of challenging Konica.

East Japan’s toughest competition traditionally comes from the Kyushu region, and this year is no exception. Powered by Moscow World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Paul Tanui and Japan’s fastest marathoner of the year, Kazuhiro Maeda, the Kyudenko team broke the Kyushu region qualifier course record and defeated perpetual all-Japanese powerhouse Asahi Kasei by over a minute. Asahi Kasei did not run many of its big guns, including the year’s #4-ranked man Fumihiro Maruyama, at the regional race, so it may have the reserve it needs to challenge both Kyushu and the best of East Japan on Jan. 1. Likewise, last year’s New Year Ekiden runner-up Toyota Kyushu finished 4th at the Kyushu qualifier without its four best Japanese men, Masato Imai, Yuya Konishi, Yuki Oshikawa and Ryuji Watanabe, and if it has them fully operational it should have what it needs to contend for the win.

Of the teams from the other regions, only Kansai winner Sagawa Express looks like it may have a chance of being near the front of the action, winning its qualifier by over a minute and a half without #1 man Ryo Yamamoto. Chugoku region winner Chugoku Denryoku looks like a distant contender, with much of its chances depending upon whether star rookie Takehiro Deki is ready to run his pro debut. Of special note from Kansai is the New Year Ekiden debut of collegiate 5000 m record holder Kensuke Takezawa, who transferred to the new Sumitomo Denko team in his home prefecture of Hyogo this year after the rest of the former S&B Foods corporate team moved to game maker DeNA.

Overseas viewers may have the chance to catch the action via Keyhole TV or any of the online sports TV link aggregators out there. JRN will once again cover the race live via Twitter on our @JRNLive feed. Check back post-race for complete results and more coverage as 2014 kicks off.

58th New Year Ekiden Entry List
National Corporate Men's Ekiden Championships
Maebashi, Gunma, 1/1/14
37 teams, 7 stages, 100.0 km
click here for complete entry and uniform list

East Japan Region
1. Konica Minolta
3. Honda
5. Subaru
8. Nissin Shokuhin Group
11. Fujitsu
12. Hitachi Butsuryu
15. JR Higashi Nihon
20. Komori Corporation
26. Yachiyo Kogyo
27. Press Kogyo
33. Yakult
34. DeNA
35. Nanyo City Hall

Chubu Region
6. Toyota Boshoku
7. Toyota
21. Aisan Kogyo
22. NTN
25. Aichi Seiko
30. Toenec

Hokuriku Region
13. YKK
36. Sekino Kosan

Kansai Region
14. SGH Group Sagawa
17. NTT Nishi Nihon
18. Otsuka Seiyaku
28. Sanyo Tokushu Seiko
37. Sumitomo Denko

Chugoku Region
4. Chugoku Denryoku
19. JFE Steel
24. Mazda
32. Chudenko

Kyushu Region
2. Toyota Kyushu
9. Asahi Kasei
10. Yasukawa Denki
16. Kyudenko
23. Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki
29. Kurosaki Harima
31. Nishitetsu

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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