Skip to main content

Miyuki Uehara Ends 2017 Ranked #1 in Japan

After becoming only the second Japanese in woman in history to make an Olympic 5000 m final last year in Rio Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) was a slow burner in 2017, absent any flashes of particular brilliance but putting together a string of strong performances capped by a year-leading half marathon in late December that put her atop the women’s rankings.


Uehara took 3rd in the 10000 m at June’s National Championships in 31:48.81, qualifying for the London World Championships where she was 24th in 32:31.58. In between she dropped her best 5000 m of the year, a 15:32.25 in Abashiri. During ekiden season she was only OK, finishing 5th on her stage at the National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Championships.

In her last race of the year, the Dec. 23 Sanyo Ladies Road Race half marathon, Uehara sat back behind frontrunning Japanese women Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) and Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), craftily running them down in the final stages to finish in 1:09:13, the fastest time of the year by a Japanese woman and one that put her at all-time Japanese #14. For her efforts Uehara will lead the Japanese team at next year’s Valencia World Half Marathon Championships.


Sanyo was Uehara’s best run of the year, but there were other highlights from others. JRN readers rightfully picked the 2:21:36 marathon debut of Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) in Nagoya as the Japanese women’s performance of the year, a time that ranked her at #4 in the Japanese history books. Riko Matsuzaki (Sekisui Kagaku) placed even higher, running 8:49.61 in a near-miss on the 3000 m national record in Kitami. 16-year-old Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) ran 15:23.56 for 4th in the 5000 m at the National Championships, just missing the London team but breaking the U18 national record and just missing the high school national record. Another high schooler, Nozomi Tanaka (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.), ran the 2nd-fastest time ever by a Japanese high school girl over 3000 m, 8:54.27, while winning October’s National Sports Festival.

But like the men, when it really counted the Japanese women couldn’t run up to ability. In London Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) just cracked the top 10 in the 10000 m but in the marathon Ando was a non-factor, her teammate Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) taking the top Japanese spot at only 16th in 2:30:36. Compare them to American women. On average time of the ten fastest performances of the year Japan still leads the U.S. as #3 in the world, but the margin this year was the slimmest in modern history, 2:25:53 to 2:25:58. American women had a time inside the ten fastest worldwide for the year, a World Marathon Majors win and a World Championships medal, all by different athletes. Japanese women had none of that. It was clear this year that American women are passing them by as relevant on the world stage, that American women are becoming what Japan once was and what it fantasizes itself still to be: smart, competitive and fast. While they may be almost equal in ability Americans have the mental edge that Japan’s best of today simply don’t.

It’s not all grim. Young runners like Ando, Kiyota and others are stepping up to fill a gap left by the last two generations. Sanyo was a big race for Japanese women, whose performances at the half marathon distance have declined noticeably in the last ten years. Prior to Sanyo not a single Japanese woman had broken 70 minutes this year, but in Sanyo Uehara, Ichiyama, Ohara and the debuting Azusa Sumi (Univ. Ent.), all but Ohara under age 23, broke 1:09:30, a solid step back in the right direction. That’s a long way from the level of performance American women brought to the half this year, maybe not entirely a coincidence, but still a source of encouragement for Japan’s marathon prospects, late as they may be before Tokyo 2020.


text © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Cheboitibin Breaks Seko's Course Record at Ome 30 km

One of Japan's longest-standing course records at its elite races fell Sunday as Kenyan Ezekiel Cheboitibin (Sunbelx) beat the great Toshihiko Seko's 38-year-old Ome 30 km Road Race record by almost 30 seconds.

Tough and hilly with a net climb in the first half and descent on the return trip, Ome is a standard spring marathon prep run and a natural partner for April's Boston Marathon, with which it has a longstanding athlete exchange program. The 2017 Ome winner, this time out Cheboitibin was gunning for Seko's record from the start, hitting the mostly uphill 10 km completely solo in 29:47, 20 km midway through the return trip in 59:30, and saving his fastest 10 km split for the end as he crossed the finish line in 1:29:06. Seko's 1:29:32 just two months before his first Boston win had made him the only man in Ome history to break 90 minutes. With the best performance of his career Cheboitibin turned the page on that history.

With the withdrawal of Fukuoka winner

Beppu-Oita Marathon to Review Staff Training After Interpreter Refers to African Athletes as "Chimpanzees"

On Feb. 14 the organizers of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon confirmed that a local woman in her fifties who served as an interpreter at this year's race had published a blog post in which she referred to the African athletes on whose behalf she had worked as "chimpanzees." The woman said she had no malicious or racist intent behind her comments, but a spokesperson for the organizers called her choice of words "inappropriate." Organizers plan to review their training and guidance procedures for all race management staff members.

The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon took place in the two cities on Feb. 3. According to the spokesperson, the blog to which the woman posted the comments is for members of a sports club to which she belongs to report on what they have been doing. On Feb. 10 she wrote about her work with the African athletes, posting it with public access so that anyone could read it. She described the struggle of talking to the African athletes, saying …

Japan Names National Team for 23rd Asian Athletics Championships

Japan has named a team featuring ten individual medalists from the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games to get an early taste of this year's World Championships  at April's Doha Asian Athletics Championships. Along with its gold medal-winning men's 4x100 m team, standouts include Jakarta gold medalists Yuki Koike (Sumitomo Denko) in the men's 200 m, Seito Yamamoto (Toyota) in the men's pole vault and Keisuke Ushiro (Kokushin Univ. AC) in the decathlon.

The women's long distance roster is strong, led by 2018 World U20 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Tanaka (ND28 AC) in the 5000 m and the resurgent Hitomi Niiya (Nike Tokyo TC) in the 10000 m, while the most interesting name among the men is Jakarta 3000 m steeplechase bronze medalist Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.).
23rd Asian Athletics ChampionshipsJapanese National Team
Doha, Qatar, Apr. 21-24, 2019
complete team listing
underlined athletes are 2018 Asian Games medalists

Women
Sprints
Chisato Fukushima (Seiko) - 100…