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Beijing World Championships Men's Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

For the first time since 1997 no Japanese men made the top 10 in a World Championships marathon.  With the withdrawal of Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), the favorite to clear the JAAF's top 8 requirement for a place on the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team, and no alternate in place to take his spot, Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), both 34 and with sub-2:09 bests, had a chance of making it on paper, but neither proved up to the task.  Looking heavy in stride, Maeda was out of the lead pack early in the race.  Fujiwara looked more comfortable and lasted longer but likewise could not cope when the race really began.  Fujiwara ultimately finished 21st in 2:21:06, just ahead of the only Kenyan athlete to finish the race, with Maeda 40th out of 42 finishers in 2:32:49, seconds behind Mongolia's Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN).  Chol Pak (North Korea), who had an unfortunate fall late in the race at last year's Asian Games, was the top Asian-born finisher at 11th in 2:15:44.

The Japanese men's results were possibly not the absolute worst in World Championships history, but they were not far off.  Altogether the race's outcome illustrated the total failure of the JAAF's National Team project, of the leadership of its founders Katsumi Sakai, Takeshi Soh and others, of a selection process that has grown increasingly murky under the same people, and ultimately of the corporate league mindset.  In post-race interviews neither Fujiwara nor Maeda could explain what went wrong, but, with no disrespect to Italy, if Italy can put two in the top 8 and Japan can't make the top 20 you know there is something wrong.  Eritrea and Uganda taking five of the top 10 was indicative of the changes happening in the landscape of marathoning, changes that the older generation of Japanese bureaucrats and coaches are simply not able to understand let alone cope with.  As part of TBS' broadcast crew Toshihiko Seko bemoaned the lack of any young Japanese athletes in the race, but without some unlikely fundamental changes it's hard to see the phenomenal young generation coming up right now faring much better as they become the grist for the corporate league mill. 

15th IAAF World Championships Men's Marathon
Beijing, China, 8/22/15
click here for complete results

1. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) - 2:12:28
2. Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:13:08
3. Munyo Solomon Mutai (Uganda) - 2:13:30
4. Ruggero Pertile (Italy) - 2:14:23
5. Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:14:36
6. Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:14:43
7. Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) - 2:14:54
8. Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 2:14:54
9. Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) - 2:15:07
10. Jackson Kiprop (Uganda) - 2:15:16
11. Chol Pak (North Korea) - 2:15:44
21. Masakazu Fujiwara (Japan) - 2:21:06
38. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:32:09
40. Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan) - 2:32:49
DNF - Dennis Kimetto (Kenya)
DNF - Wilson Kipsang (Kenya)
DNF - Ali Hasan Mahbood (Bahrain)
DNS - Masato Imai (Japan)


yuza said…
It is good to see the Kenyans taking this year's marathon seriously.

The Japanese men were poor . I do not know when they have to nominate athletes for the World's, but I think the Japanese would be better off having a half marathon time-trial about three or four weeks prior to the event and picking their athletes from the results. This would mean they would take athletes who are fit.

The women should do a lot better than the men, if they are fit.
Brett Larner said…
That's a good idea, but I think the problems go a lot deeper. I have my own ideas about what they are and what the solution could be, and hopefully we'll see some validation of that tonight.

Yes, the women should do better. At the very least they'll have Kazuhiro Maeda's time to target.
yuza said…
I will be curious to see what "the powers that be" have to say about the performance of the men in both the marathon and the 10,000m, because they have been quite ordinary. I just want them to run well at major championships, but they don't even look fit! Oh well. I look forward to reading about your ideas relating to the men.

The 10,000m was a really good race, though everybody was tight-lipped about the doping scandal hanging over Farah. Then again athletics is kind of in denial.

I hope the women are better prepared than the men.
aptTAP said…
I found the marathon disappointing for several reasons...but still give congrats to the young Eritrean that went for it and capitalized on a very bad day for the big guns. gave a decent review of the race, but does anybody know what the deal with the course was? I would imagine the heat/humidity wasn't as detrimental for the Japanese as it might be for say someone training at altitude...but I counted at least 25 people who DNF the race. How likely is that at a world championship level?

Oh, and what was the deal with the finish line? They went only the final 100m of the track and many athletes didn't start kicking until past the "finish line" as they thought they had a lap to go.

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