All-time Japanese #3 for 10000 m, Hitomi Niiya (Nike Tokyo TC) makes a return to the distance at Australia's Zatopek:10 next week with support from JRN after five years away from the sport. Niiya's history at the distance is short with only four track 10000 m races to her name, but good ones they were, one and all:
- 31:28.26, 2012 Hyogo Relay Carnival - 1st
- 30:59.19, 2012 London Olympics - 9th
- 31:06.67 MR, 2013 Japanese National Championships - 1st
- 30:56.70, 2013 Moscow World Championships - 5th
Following her crushing defeat over the last lap in Moscow after leading the entire race Niiya quit running and everything to do with it. But in the spring this year, now 30, she decided to try to make a comeback in hope of making the 2020 Olympic team in the 10000 m, telling the media, "I still totally hate running, but unfortunately it seems like this is where I belong."
After three track races from 3000 m to 5000 m between June and October she made a definitive statement of intent with a spectacular 31:08 course record on the anchor stage of the East Japan Women's Ekiden last month, breaking the record set by Yoko Shibui the season before she set the still-standing 10000 m Japanese national record of 30:48.89. Niiya's goal at the Zatopek 10 is to clear the 31:50.00 standard announced today for the 2019 Doha World Championships.
Also running at the Zatopek meet is Niiya's teammate Ran Urabe. Coached by former men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota, the 23-year-old Urabe is one of Japan's rising talents in the 1500 m, PBing three times this year and winning October's National Sports Festival. At the Zatopek meet she hopes to run in the 4:13 to 4:14 range.
text and photos © 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved