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Japanese Men's World Championships Qualification Wraps Up at Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - preview

by Brett Larner

It's a great luxury to get to watch a live marathon broadcast with no commercials, but that's just what you get with the 70th edition of the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon this Sunday.  Japan's first IAAF gold label race, Biwako as it is called here features a live ad-free nationwide broadcast on NHK starting at 12:15 p.m. Japan time with the race kicking off at 12:30.  Overseas viewers can follow @JRNLive for live coverage throughout the race if NHK is not available in your area.

And what does the race hold?  It's the last of the selection races for the Japanese team for the Beijing World Championships.  At Tokyo last week the Federation seemed to have backed off its sub-2:06:30 requirement for auto team selection, with more talk about the top Japanese position in the selection races and deserving praise for the 2:07:39 scored in Tokyo by Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu).  Imai is a clear favorite to make the team, with Fukuoka's top Japanese finisher Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) also having a shot with his 2:09:06 for 4th barring something spectacular at Biwako.  More distantly, after a 2:09:12 PB for 9th in Tokyo Fujiwara's teammate Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) could make it if the field flops in Biwako.  Unlikely to be named are Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki), who bombed out in Tokyo, and Beppu-Oita runner-up Hiroki Kadota (Team Kanebo), whose PB 2:10:46 time didn't reflect the true quality of his race.

On the domestic front in Biwako there are three heavy favorites.  Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) was the fastest Japanese man of 2013 with a 2:08:00 at the Tokyo Marathon.  He has struggled to live up to that since then after injury troubles and comes into Biwako with few recent races behind him.  At the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden he finished 9th on the 22.0 km Fourth Stage, 59 seconds behind Imai but beating his main competitor for the Beijing team, last year's top Japanese finisher Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei), by 47 seconds.  Sasaki ran a 2:09:47 PB for 3rd in Biwako last year and comes in this year with a win at the Karatsu 10 Miler earlier this month and talking about 2:08.  Maeda is talking 2:07.

Their main competition is Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), in the Japanese all-time top ten for 10000 m and half marathon and running his fourth marathon since debuting in Dubai 14 months ago.  In Dubai he ran 2:13, following up with a 2:12 in Sydney in September before PBing again in 2:10:50 in Fukuoka.  Another successful race would put him under 2:10 and in range of what Maeda and Sasaki say they're looking to do, but four marathons is a lot for your first year+ at the distance.  Not even Kawauchi tried that.  Other domestic notables in the field include veteran sub-2:10 twins Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) and Yuko Matsumiya (Team Hitachi Butsuryu), former Hakone Ekiden star and 2015 New Year Ekiden anchor stage winner Tsubasa Hayakawa (Team Toyota), sub-62 half marathoners Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo) and Kenta Murotsuka (DeNA RC), and a raft of men at the 2:10-2:12 level who could make the jump in quality.

Defending champion Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) returns to lead the international field along with 2:06:07 Kenyan Eric Ndiema and 2012 Biwako winner Samuel Ndungu (Kenya).  Japan-based Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN) is talking about breaking the 2:08:50 Mongolian national record he set while beating Fujiwara and the rest of the Japanese men in Fukuoka in December, with Jose Antonio Uribe (Mexico), Jackson Kiprop (Uganda) and Fikadu Girma (Ethiopia) adding to the sub-2:10 numbers that will help push the front Japanese pack.  2014 European champion Daniele Meucci (Italy) is an interesting addition to the field and should be looking for a marathon breakthrough that will give him a time to better match his 1:01:05 half marathon best.  Wildcards include Japan-based Africans Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Team Chuo Hatsujo) and Johana Maina (Kenya/Team Fujitsu), both with 2:13 marathon debuts last year.

70th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Otsu, Shiga, 3/1/15
click here for complete field listing

Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:05:25 (Berlin 2010)
Eric Ndiema (Kenya) - 2:06:07 (Amsterdam 2011)
Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:07:04 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:08:00 (Tokyo 2013)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Jose Antonio Uribe (Mexico) - 2:08:55 (Houston 2014)
Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:14 (Tokyo 2013)
Yuko Matsumiya (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:09:18 (Lake Biwa 2005)
Jackson Kiprop (Uganda) - 2:09:32 (Mumbai 2013)
Fikadu Girma (Ethiopia) - 2:09:34 (Dusseldorf 2014)
Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:47 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:10:08 (Fukuoka Int'l 2012)
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:10:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Japan/NTN) - 2:10:51 (Lake Biwa 2010)
Keita Akiba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:10:53 (Beppu-Oita 2009)
Soji Ikeda (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:59 (Tokyo 2013)
Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 2:11:08 (European Championships 2014)
Takaaki Koda (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:08 (Tokyo 2011)
Stepan Kiselev (Russia) - 2:11:28 (Zurich 2014)
Noritaka Fujiyama (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 2:11:34 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:11:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:59 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Noriaki Takahashi (Japan/DeNA) - 2:12:00 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Ryoichi Matsuo (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:11 (Nobeoka 2014)
Kenji Higashino (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:13 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Tatsunari Hirayama (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:12:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe) - 2:12:38 (Danzhou 2010)
Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:12:49 (Nobeoka 2013)
Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Chuo Hatsujo) - 2:13:07 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Johana Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) - 2:13:46 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)

Debut/Do-over
Daisuke Shimizu (Japan/Kanebo) - 1:01:44 (Marugame 2012)
Kenta Murotsuka (Japan/DeNA) - 1:01:58 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:02:15 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Tomohiro Shiiya (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 1:02:15 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Masatoshi Kikuchi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 1:02:28 (Marugame Half 2012)
Naohiro Yamada (Japan/YKK) - 1:02:40 (Marugame 2013)
Shota Inoue (Japan/Toyota) - 1:02:49 (Marugame Half 2015)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:02:50 (Marugame Half 2014)
Yusuke Sato (Japan/Fujitsu) - 59:28 (Yosenkai 20 km 2011)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Japan/Toyota) - 1:00:03 (Yosenkai 20 km 2010)
Taiki Yoshimura (Japan/Ryutsu Keizai Univ.) - 1:00:24 (Yosenkai 20 km 2013)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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