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Niiya Returns From Australia With World Championships Qualifying Mark

5th in the women's 10000 m at the 2013 Moscow World Championships, Hitomi Niiya (30, Nike Tokyo TC) returned to Japan on Dec. 15 from Melbourne, Australia. In her first track 10000 m since Moscow over five years ago Niiya won the Zatopek:10 in 31:32.50 to clear the 2019 Doha World Championships entry standard of 31:50.00. "I just barely cleared my minimum goal," she said of her performance.

In the Zatopek:10 race Niiya showed that her aggressive style lives on. Taking off from the lead group after only 2000 m she ran the entire rest of the way to the win alone. "The last 3000 m were hard," she said. "I understood that I'm not doing enough distance in training." Asked to compare her performance to her golden years in Moscow, where she ran an all-time Japanese #3 mark of 30:56.70 she rated Zatopek "50-60%."

In just her fifth race since starting to make a comeback in the spring from five years of retirement Niiya cleared the World Championships entry standard. Even so, she uncompromisingly refuses to let herself be satisfied. "Breaking the standard basically shouldn't really be hard," she said. "Especially if you are globally competitive and have the ability to make the podium." Niiya plans to continue to redevelop her speed and racing sense as well as adding 20 km runs and uphill training to improve her stamina.

Underlying Niiya's current drive is a desire"to settle up with the past." "There was me in Moscow when I was 25 and me now," she said. "Everyone around me feels the same, but I feel it the most. It's like a ghost  that haunts me." It's a wall that she was to get across, and however much she feels that her strength and speed are still lacking, she has to climb the steps one at a time.

The next step she is planning on that journey is next month's National Women's Ekiden. "It'll be my first time running it in six years," she said. "I want to run the anchor stage for the Tokyo team." No doubt she's planning a repeat of her course record-breaking run on the anchor stage of November's East Japan Women's Ekiden.

source article:
translated by Brett Larner
photo © 2018 Masato Yokota, all rights reserved

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