Qualifiers for Japan's team for the Tokyo Olympic Games came on strong today on the third day of the 105th National Track and Field Championships and National U20 Track and Field Championships. The men's 3000 mSC final was expected to be one of the best events of the meet, and it more than lived up to it. 19-year-old NR holder Ryuji Miura of Juntendo University was the only Japanese man with the Olympic standard and only needed to make top 3 to guarantee his spot at the Olympics. He led most of the way, splitting 2:49 for the first 1000 m and 2:46 for the next, burning off all the competition except Japan's #2-ranked man Kosei Yamaguchi and #5-ranked Ryoma Aoki as the pace got hotter.
Miura was leading on the second to last water jump when he slipped and fell. As Aoki and Yamaguchi went by Miura bounced back up, passing Yamaguchi and in sync with Aoki on the next jump. From there it was all his, tearing through a 66-second last lap to finish in 8:15.99 almost 2 seconds under his own weeks-old NR. Yamaguchi was 2nd in 8:19.96 and Aoki 3rd in 8:20.70, putting them at all-time JPN #4 and #5 and both clearing the Olympic standard for the first time to give Japan an unexpectedly strong full squad for the Olympic steeple. How much further can Miura go? We'll see in a month.
The women's 3000 mSC was almost as good. #2-ranked Yuno Yamanaka dropped an all-time #2 Japanese mark of 9:41.84 for the win over #1 ranked Reimi Yoshimura and team contender Yui Yabuta, Yoshimura moving up to all-time JPN #5 in 9:45.52 and Yabuta to #6 in 9:46.44. In terms of their Olympic chances, the standard was still far out of reach but Yamanaka scored enough points to move up to around #43 or 44 in the 45-deep quota. Yoshimura was out of reach at #49, with Yabuta further down. Whether Yamanaka is going to survive Tuesday's deadline and make it onto the team is a tough call that leans toward no, but she did exactly what she could to give herself the best chance. The rest is out of her hands.
In the men's 400 m final, Kazuki Kurokawa and Takatoshi Abe went 1-2, both clearing the Olympic standard again and making the Olympic team. Lacking the standard, Takayuki Kishimoto was 3rd in 49.29, bumping standard holders Hiromu Yamauchi and Masaki Toyoda to 4th and 5th. Yamauchi also leads Toyoda in the world rankings, so he will likely be the one to pick up the third Olympic team position if the JAAF decides to add him to the two auto-qualifiers.
In the women's 100 mH final, NR co-holder Asuka Terada won in 13.09 (0.0), far off her record but enough to improve her position to near the top of the Olympic quota. Her co-holder Masumi Aoki was out with injury but has a chance to pick up a quota spot if the JAAF decides she's likely to recover in time.
In jumps, Kosei Takekawa cleared a PB 5.70 m to win the men's pole vault. Top-ranked Seito Yamamoto, currently 31st of 32 in the Olympic quota, tied for 3rd at 5.60 m and failed to improve his position. Mariko Morimoto won the women's triple jump with a PB of 13.37 (+1.4) on her final attempt.
In the throws, Shota Fukuda won the men's hammer throw with a 71.37 m PB on his third attempt. Akane Watanabe closed in 66.24 m to win the women's hammer title.
In qualifying rounds, the highlight was the men's 110 mH. All three men with the Olympic standard made it through to the final, previous NR holder Shunya Takamiya barely making it with the slowest qualifying time. But they picked up unexpected competition from another Juntendo runner as Rachid Muratake cleared the standard for the first time, winning his heat in 13.28 (+0.5). Sunday's final should be one of the highlights of the meet's closing day.
Both Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and Yoshihide Kiryu scratched from the men's 200 m heats, making Yuki Koike the only man on the list with the Olympic standard. He made it through to the final without problem, where all he has to do is make top 3. Jun Yamashita and Shota Iizuka also made it through, and with both of them inside the Olympic quota there's still a chance Japan will have a full squad even without Sani Brown.
It wasn't a good day for Japanese men who chose to go to college in the U.S., as along with Sani Brown's DNS and Yusuke Uchikoshi's last-place finish in the men's 3000 mSC, Texas A&M University's Allon Tatsunami Clay, the 2019 national champion over 800 m while still in high school, finished last in his qualifying heat. NR holder Sho Kawamoto led the qualifiers in 1:48.72. Ran Urabe led the women's 800 m qualifiers in 2:05.70, while Ami Yamamoto ran a PB 57.04 to lead the women's 400 mH qualifiers.
In U20 action, both the men's and women's 3000 mSC meet records fell. The men's race featured an unusual battle over the last lap between corporate leaguer Aren Nakashima, high schooler Asahi Kuroda, and yet another Juntendo runner, Soma Hattori. All three broke the old meet record, with Hattori winning in 8:39.19. The top 8 and 10 of the field of 13 ran PBs, a further sign of some kind of great leap forward in Japanese steeplechase. The women's race had only four starters, but that didn't stop Nanase Tanimoto of 2020 National University Women's Ekiden champ Meijo University from taking 27 seconds off the meet record and winning by 29 seconds in a PB of 10:13.49.
Complete results are available here. Day One and Day Two coverage is here. Live streaming details and preview for the meet's final day tomorrow are here.
© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved