Skip to main content

Japanese Marathon Teams Face Difficult Situation in Rio Olympics With Tough Competition and Deteriorating Security

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2016/07/15/kiji/K20160715012969550.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2016/07/15/kiji/K20160715012969530.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/olympic/rio2016/athletics/news/1679246.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Japan's Rio de Janeiro marathon teams face a tough challenge in the Olympic races, the women's race scheduled for Aug. 14 and the men's race for the final day of the Games, 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 21 Japan time.

For the men, top eight looks like a realistic goal.  Among the three, Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei), Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda), Sasaki has the fastest PB at 2:08:56.  In comparison, Kenyan Olympic team member Eliud Kipchoge won April's London Marathon in an all-time #2 time of 2:03:05.  The gap in ability between the Africans and the Japanese men is enormous.

Among the women, a three-time Olympian on the track, Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) is one of Japan's best medal prospects in her first time in an Olympic marathon.  But not all has gone according to plan in her preparations.  Suffering inflammation of the fourth metatarsal in her right foot in May, Fukushi sat out the June 26 Hakodate Half Marathon.  "In order to be ready [for the Olympic women's marathon on] August 14 we decided not to overdo it at this point," said Fukushi's coach Tadayuki Nagayama, emphasizing the minor nature of her injury.  In her final month of preparation Fukushi is training overseas, winning a 4 km road race in Boulder, U.S.A. on July 4.

Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) ran a 10 km road race in the U.S.A. in June, clocking a passable 33:39.  After doing training designed to deal with changes in pace she will head to the U.S.A. for altitude training.  Last year Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) finished 7th in the Beijing World Championships marathon without doing altitude training.  This year she is again basing her training in Hokkaido.

But there is another major challenge to deal with, the possibility of major constraints on the marathon men and women's final preparations in Rio itself.  Although they have made their own hotel arrangements in the vicinity of the marathon start point, the security of the surrounding area has been deteriorating.  At the JAAF's official Olympic Team sendoff party July 15 in Tokyo, an official commented, "It is dangerous, and we will make adjustments to plans in consultation with local staff."  The consequences look impossible to avoid.

The majority of the course is made up a 10 km seaside loop, but the security problems exist primarily in the urban section between the start and the coast, roughly the portions from the start to 5 km and from 35 km to the finish.  The official commented, "They might have to tour the course by car."  Of the Japanese marathoners, only Ito is considering running on the course.  There have been two recent changes to the urban portion of the course, and it does not appear possible to gain much intel by running on the course.

The coastal circuit section of the course is considered safe, but since various details such as security enforcement in the early morning are still unclear it is essentially not possible for athletes to do normal activities like going running by themselves.  The JAAF's official team camp facilities are located at a military base 20 km away, creating other difficulties.  Sasaki said simply, "You just have to roll with it."  Security looks likely to be one of the team's main adversaries.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Daniel and Kawauchi Win Saitama International Marathon

After missing a medal by 3 seconds at August's London World Championships, defending champ Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) made it two in a row as she won a tight battle against Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) to win the Saitama International Marathon in 2:28:39.

With the onus on Japanese women Reia Iwada (Dome) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) to break 2:29:00 in order to qualify for Japan's new-format 2020 Olympic trials race, the pair of them did most of the heavy lifting for the first two-thirds of the race. Yoshida led the early kilometers before Iwade took over, and through strong head and tailwinds, over rolling hills and around sharp turns Iwade kept things moving just under target pace, shaking the pack down to just her, Daniel, Habtegebrel and relative unknown Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) by 15 km.

Little changed up front until after the lead group hit the start of the hilliest 10 km on the course after 25 km. For the first time Iwade slipped to the rear of the pack, and on a …

Ekiden Weekend Roundup

Ekiden season is in full swing, and across the country it was another busy weekend. Although there were four major ekidens nationwide, the best action came as runners from high school to the pros tuned up for the string of national championship ekiden races stretching from the end of this month to mid-January. At Kanagawa's Nittai University Time Trials meet, two-time steeplechase junior world champion Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) pipped 5000 m junior world championships bronze medalist William Malel (Honda) at the line in the 10000 m A-heat, winning in 27:22.73 to Malel's 27:22.79. Four other Kenyans including Ndiku's junior teammate Richard Kimunyan broke 28 minutes as their coaches eye who to run at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden.



Evans Yego of the tiny Sunbelx supermarket team won the more conservative 5000 m A-heat in 13:48.04, a race most notable for high schoolers Luka Musembi (Sendai Ikuei H.S.), Masato Suzuki (Suijo H.S.) and Reito Hanzawa (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) …

Breaking Down the Best-Ever Japanese Marathon Times By Country

Japanese marathoners these days have the reputation of rarely racing abroad, and of rarely racing well when they do. Back in the day that wasn't true; Japanese marathoners have won all the World Marathon Majors-to-be except New York, and two of the three Japanese men to have run 2:06 and all three women to have run 2:19 did it outside Japan. Whatever the extent to which things did turn inward along the way, the last few years have seen an uptick in Japanese runners going farther afield and running better there than any others before them.

The lists above and below show the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries to 2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women. Japanese men have run sub-2:20 marathons in 37 countries around the world including Japan, with Japanese women having cleared 2:45 in 33 countries including at home. Breaking it down by IAAF label times, more Japanese men have run label standard times abroad, but women have typically performed at a higher label…