Japanese athletes were busy on the track overseas this weekend. At Friday's Stumptown Twilight meet in Portland, indoor mile Asian record holder Nanami Arai (Honda) took 2nd in the men's 1500 m in 3:39.58, his second time this season breaking 3:40. It used to be a rarity to see a Japanese man clear 3:40, something that happened once every couple of years, but so far this season four Japanese men have done it a total of six times. If the distance had even a fraction of the prestige of the Hakone Ekiden, or of that it has in the U.S., there's no doubt there'd be more.
Speaking of distances with prestige, on the first day of London's Muller Anniversary Games Diamond League spectacular Yuki Koike (Sumitomo Denko) became the third Japanese man to join the sub-10 club, running 9.98 (+0.5 m/s) for 4th in the men's 100 m final. Koike also ran 2nd on the Japanese men's 4x100 m relay team, which clocked a season best 37.78 for 2nd despite featuring only two regulars, Shuhei Tada (Sumitomo Denko) and Yoshihide Kiryu (Nihon Seimei). Making his debut on anchor as a late sub for 100 m national record holder Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (Univ. of Florida), Kirara Shiraishi (Cerespo) brought the team home safely to join the growing ranks of potential members of the squad's roster for next year's Tokyo Olympics. Koike also returned on Day 2 of London to 20.24 (+0.9 m/s) for 4th in the 200 m, the 2nd-fastest by a Japanese man so far this year and just off his PB.
Having skipped June's National Championships 5000 m to focus on the London Diamond League, Hitomi Niiya (Nike Tokyo TC) switched to Saturday's KBC Nacht van de Atletiek meet in Belgium at the last minute after feeling that she wouldn't be able to reach her goal in London. In Belgium she ran 15:20.03 for 6th, becoming the fourth Japanese woman to clear the Doha World Championships standard and just missing the 15:19.99 year-leading Japanese time held by Tomoka Kimura (Shiseido). Nanaka Kuraoka (Denso) and Mai Shoji (Denso) took 9th and 11th in 15:33.45 and 15:35.54, with 3000 mSC U20 national record holder Reimi Yoshimura (Daito Bunka Univ.) handling pacing duties in the early going.
One of the four men to have broken 3:40 for 1500 m so far this year, Hideyuki Tanaka (Toyota) came up agonizingly short of joining Niiya under the Doha 5000 m standard in Belgium, running an all-time Japanese #11 13:22.72 but missing the Doha standard by 0.22. Hazuma Hattori (Toenec) finished last in 13:58.49. Tanaka has shown tremendous range this year, running 3:39.98 for 1500 m, this 13:22.72 for 5000 m, and a 1:01:33 half marathon. All that's left is a solid 10000 m for him to seal up the title of Japan's best non-marathon man.
800 m and 1500 m national champion Ran Urabe (Nike Tokyo TC) followed up a 3rd-place finish a few days ago in the 1500 m at the Meeting to Liege with another 1500 m at KBC Nacht. Unable to regain her form after having caught a cold post-Nationals, Urabe was only 4th in 4:21.01. Runner-up at Nationals, men's 800 m national record holder Sho Kawamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) won the 800 m B-Heat in 1:46.93 after having gone 0.60 faster a few days ago in Barcelona.
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