Skip to main content

Golden Games in Nobeoka Preview

by Brett Larner

Held in Athlete Town Nobeoka, Japan's Eugene, Saturday's Golden Games in Nobeoka are one of the highlights of outdoor track season.  Fans line the outer lane of the track, banging on metallic sponsor boards to create a rhythmic roar that follows athletes all the way through the race and the great Soh twins working the field, calling to each athlete by name over loudspeakers to urge them on and welcoming them to the finish.  Every year it produces some of the fastest Japanese times of the year, and in an Olympic year that's going to be more true than ever.

Last year the men's 10000 m was little more than a time trial for Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) with pacing from double World Championships bronze medalist Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko), both breaking 27:45.  This year it's big, arguably the main race of the day as Olympic team hopefuls look to join the eleven Japanese men already under the 28:00.00 Rio standard in the lead-up to June's National Championships.  60-61 minute half marathoners Keita Shitara (Konica Minolta), Masato Kikuchi (Konica Minolta), Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta), Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.), Naoki Kudo (Komazawa Univ.), Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota) and Shogo Nakamura (Team Fujitsu) are all entered along with Yuta Shitara, the only man in the field who already holds a Rio standard time apart from pacer Tanui.  One name to watch out for is 2016 national XC champion Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei), the top Japanese man in the 10000 m at last month's Hyogo Relay Carnival where he scored a potential in for the Rio team if he breaks 28.

The men's 5000 m A-heat's main draw is 17-year-old Gakuho Ishikawa H.S. senior Hyuga Endo, red-hot lately with wins in four of his last five races including a 13:48.13 PB for 5000 m in his first race this outdoor season to move up to all-time #7 among Japanese high schoolers.  13:39.87 is the mark to beat for #1.  As with last year, the C-heat is the real A-heat as a few ambitious Japanese line up among almost all the best Japan-based Africans to try to get pulled to fast times.  It worked for Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) last year with a rare Japanese sub-13:20, and this year the likes of 2016 year leader to date Takanori Ichikawa (Team Hitachi Butsuryu), 2015 national university 5000 m champion Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) and 5000 m national collegiate record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko) hope to follow suit.  13:25.00 is the time to beat for Rio, a time three Japanese men currently hold.

Seven women have cleared the 15:24.00 Rio standard so far.  Three of the five fastest so far this year without Rio marks are entered, Hisami Ishii (Team Yamada Denki), Sakie Arai (Osa Gakuin Univ.) and Risa Kikuchi (Team Hitachi), but the best chance of a Rio-qualifying mark may come from #1-ranked high schooler Yuka Mukai (Sera H.S.), 15:31.92 last fall for all-time H.S. #6.  Look also for U-20 marathon record holder Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) hitting the track after missing Rio in the marathon despite a 2:24:38 PB at March's Nagoya Women's Marathon.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kazami Breaks 100 km World Record at Lake Saroma

Running on the same course where Japan's Takahiro Sunada set the road 100 km world record of 6:13:33 twenty years ago, 2:17:23 marathoner Nao Kazamibested a deep and competitive field to win the Lake Saroma 100 km Ultramarathon in a world record 6:09:14.

Part of a front group of at least five that went through the marathon split in 2:33:36, on pace for 6:04:01, Kazami lost touch with the lead as rivals Koji Hayasaka and Takehiko Gyoba surged just before halfway to open a roughly 30 second lead that lasted until nearly 75 km. But in the last quarter of the race Kazami, a graduate of Hakone Ekiden powerhouse Komazawa University, was the only one who could sustain anything close to the early pace, overtaking Hayasaka and Gyoba before pulling away to open a lead of over 11 minutes. Kazami's mark took more than 4 minutes off the world record, and he also bettered the 100 km track world record of 6:10:20 set in 1978 well before he was born by the late Don Ritchie.
Trying to stay wi…

Tanaka and Hashioka Win Gold - World U20 Championships Day Two Japanese Results

Working together to execute an aggressive frontrunning team strategy born from failure two years ago in Bydgoszcz, 2018 Asian U20 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Tanaka and 2018 Asian Junior Cross Country gold medalist Yuna Wada opened a massive lead over the African Junior Cross Country medalist Ethiopian duo of Meselu Berhe and Tsige Gebreselama in the early going of the Tampere World U20 Championships women's 3000 m. Tanaka took the lead from the gun before Wada went out front at 200 m to set a fast pace. Through splits of 3:00 and 3:03 for the first 2000 m, Tanaka kicked hard from 300 m out to close with a 2:51 for Japan's first-ever gold medal in the event, winning in a PB of 8:54.01.

Berhe and Gebreselama caught Wada on the back corner but weren't even close to matching Tanaka, taking 2nd and 3rd in PBs just under the 9-minute mark. Wada just held off Kenyan Jenali Jemutai Yego for 4th in 9:00.50, seeming happy in post-race interviews to have helped a teammate score gol…

Kamulu Runs 10000 m World Lead, Ahn Breaks Korean National Record, Tamura Clears 28 Minutes, Niiya Back on Track in Fukagawa

National records fell for the third meet in a row in the four-part Hokuren Distance Challenge series Wednesday in Fukagawa, Hokkaido. Longtime Japan resident Pauline Kamulu (Route Inn Hotels) had a shockingly good run in the women's 10000 m A-heat, following up her 1:06:56 bronze medal run at the Valencia World Half Marathon Championships by lopping over a minute off her 10000 m best with a 2018 world-leading time of 30:41.85.

Kamulu lapped the entire field, her nearest competitor Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) returning from a 2:23:46 marathon PB in Osaka in January to take 30 seconds off her own best in 32:13.87. Further back, Seul Ki Ahn broke the South Korean national record set 13 years ago in Fukagawa with a new mark of 32:33.61. Ahn's NR followed the 2:25:41 NR set by Do Yeon Kim at the Seoul International Marathon in March, a miniature renaissance in South Korea women's distance running.

The men's 10000 m A-heat was also decently fast, Andrew Lorot (Subaru) leading fo…