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JAAF Announces Japanese Women's and Men's Marathon Teams for Rio Olympics

by Brett Larner

The JAAF announced the Japanese women's and men's marathon team lineups for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics at a press conference on Mar. 17 streamed live worldwide.  Surprisingly there were no surprises, no controversial calls, the athletes chosen for the team the most likely based on the complicated selection criteria.

The women's team includes 2016 Osaka Women's winner Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), 2016 Nagoya Women's runner-up Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) and 2015 World Championships 7th-placer Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku).  The men's team is made up of 2015 Fukuoka 3rd-placer Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei), 2015 Lake Biwa runner-up Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) and 4th-placer Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda).  No alternates were named in the event, likely given recent history, that any of the team members does not make the starting line, and no one was named to the team from two of the selection races, last year's Saitama International Women's Marathon and this year's Tokyo Marathon, where the top Japanese finishers were Kaori Yoshida (Runners Pulse), 2nd in a PB of 2:28:43, and Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult), 8th in a PB of 2:10:57.

With only Tanaka still in her 20s the teams have average ages of 31 for the women and just over 32 for the men, Ishikawa at 36 being the oldest Japanese man ever to break 2:10 with his 2:09:25 two weeks ago at Lake Biwa.  Of the six Fukushi looks like the best medal prospect, a bronze medal at the 2013 Moscow World Championships and a 2:22:17 win in Osaka in January, all-time #7 among Japanese women, to her name.  Tanaka, controversially left off of last year's Beijing World Championships team despite winning one of the selection races in a quality time, showed tremendous improvement with her all-time Japanese #11 2:23:19 last weekend in Nagoya and could be a top-eight contender.  Ito, 7th in Beijing, has never been flashy but has shown a lot of stability and should play a solid support role.

Among the men Kitajima has the slowest PB at only 2:09:16 two weeks ago in Lake Biwa, but given his success so far in just over a year as a marathoner, winning his debut in February last year in 2:12:28, winning again in Sydney in September in 2:12:44 on a tough course and then coming just 5 seconds short of winning Lake Biwa, and his status of training partner to London Olympics 6th-placer and Moscow World Championships 5th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto, he's likely to be Japan's top man in Rio.  Ishikawa has proven himself to be competent and reliable at home and abroad and should have top ten potential, three of his six marathons having been 2:09s in Japan and the others a 2:10 and a 2:11 in Berlin and a 2:11 debut.  Fastest of the three on paper, Sasaki is more of a wildcard, his marathon career not especially impressive before diet and training changes helped him break 2:09 in Fukuoka last December.  If he really did hit on something with the changeup to his regimen then expect a strong team run from all three Japanese men come August.

Women

Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - D.O.B. Mar. 25, 1982
P.B.: 2:22:17 (2016 Osaka International Women's Marathon)

Marathon History
1st - 2016 Osaka International Women's Marathon - 2:22:17
4th - 2015 Chicago Marathon - 2:24:25
6th - 2014 Berlin Marathon - 2:26:25
3rd - 2013 Moscow World Championships Marathon - 2:27:45
1st - 2013 Osaka International Women's Marathon - 2:24:21
8th - 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon - 2:37:35
2nd - 2011 Chicago Marathon - 2:24:38
19th - 2008 Osaka International Women's Marathon - 2:40:54

Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) - D.O.B. Sept. 25, 1988
P.B.: 2:23:19 (2016 Nagoya Women's Marathon)

Marathon History
2nd - 2016 Nagoya Women's Marathon - 2:23:19
8th - 2015 Berlin Marathon - 2:28:00
1st - 2014 Yokohama International Women's Marathon - 2:26:57
4th - 2014 Nagoya Women's Marathon - 2:26:05

Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - D.O.B. May 23, 1984
P.B.: 2:24:42 (2015 Nagoya Women's Marathon)

Marathon History
7th - 2015 Beijing World Championships Marathon - 2:29:48
3rd - 2015 Nagoya Women's Marathon - 2:24:42
7th - 2014 Vienna Marathon - 2:35:15
7th - 2014 Tokyo Marathon - 2:28:36
3rd - 2013 Hokkaido Marathon - 2:32:54
7th - 2013 London Marathon - 2:28:37
5th - 2012 Yokohama International Women's Marathon - 2:27:06
5th - 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon - 2:25:26
22nd - 2011 Daegu World Championships Marathon - 2:35:16
2nd - 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon - 2:26:55
4th - 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - 2:29:13

Men

Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - D.O.B. Oct. 16, 1985
P.B.: 2:08:56 (2015 Fukuoka International Marathon)

Marathon History
3rd - 2015 Fukuoka International Marathon - 2:08:56
9th - 2015 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:14:27
17th - 2014 Chicago Marathon - 2:15:25
2nd - 2014 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:09:47
9th - 2013 Fukuoka International Marathon - 2:13:12
16th - 2013 Tokyo Marathon - 2:11:28
14th - 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:12:42
20th - 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon - 2:19:23
7th - 2009 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:14:00

Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) - D.O.B. Sept. 27, 1979
P.B.: 2:09:10 (2013 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon)

Marathon History
4th - 2016 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:09:25
13th - 2014 Tokyo Marathon - 2:09:29
7th - 2013 Berlin Marathon - 2:10:24
6th - 2013 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:09:10
11th - 2012 Berlin Marathon - 2:11:46
13th - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:11:13

Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) - D.O.B. Oct. 16, 1984
P.B.: 2:09:16 (2016 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon)

Marathon History
2nd - 2016 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - 2:09:16
1st - 2015 Sydney Marathon - 2:12:44
1st - 2015 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon - 2:12:28

© 2016 Brett Larner
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