Skip to main content

Ninja Runner Yuka Ando Leads Japanese Women's Marathon Team in London: "I Want to Go For It"

Her form has been dubbed "ninja running." Both arms held straight down with almost no movement. That idiosyncratic style carried Yuka Ando, 23, to the fastest-ever marathon debut by a Japanese woman, 2:21:36, at March's Nagoya Women's Marathon to land at #4 on the all-time Japanese lists. All at once Ando found herself catapulted to the top level of women's marathoning, a candidate for Japan's next great marathoner.

When she was younger Ando ran moving her arms like other runners, but she had a bad habit of moving robotically, her upper body and lower body not working in sync. The turning point came in 2014 when she joined Suzuki Hamamatsu AC. Working there with coach Masayuki Satouchi to eliminate the faults in her form, the pair arrived at the ninja running style that let her run relaxed. "Other people keep asking me, "Isn't it hard to run like that?" but for me it's comfortable," she said. The efficient form helped her maintain her stamina and run head to head with Rio Olympics silver medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) over the second half of the race.

Inspired by her fellow Gifu native Naoko Takahashi's gold medal run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics Ando began running in junior high school. At Aichi's Toyokawa H.S. she led the team to two National High School Ekiden titles. Last year she was named to the Japanese national team for the World Half Marathon Championships. The 3rd placer in Nagoya, Mao Kiyota, 23, is her teammate at both Suzuki Hamamatsu and on the World Championships women's marathon squad. "Having a strong training partner around helps give me confidence," Ando said.

London will be Ando's second marathon. If she makes the top eight her place in the fall, 2019 qualifying race for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team will be guaranteed. "In Nagoya I felt that if I went with the leaders then everything would work out," she said. "If I can run like I did in Nagoya then I really want to go for it." The three women ahead of her on the all-time list, Mizuki Noguchi, Yoko Shibui and Naoko Takahashi, all hailed from the same era. Hopes are high that this 23-year-old can help Japanese women's marathoning break free from treading water. The London World Championships women's marathon starts at 22:00 Japan time on Sunday, August 6.

source article: https://mainichi.jp/articles/20170731/mog/00m/050/004000c
translated by Brett Larner

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Ichiyama and Kipkoech Win Sapporo Olympic Test Event Half Marathon

The test event for the Tokyo Olympics marathon went off as planned May 5 in Sapporo on a course more or less mirroring the first half of this summer's Olympic course. Strong winds from the south meant a slow start over the first 8 km, super fast splits from the turn to the north just before 10 km until after 15 km, and a technical finish into the wind over the narrow and winding last few km through the Hokkaido University campus. After a slow first km, Olympic marathon women's team members Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) and Mao Ichiyama  (Wacoal) plus alternate Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) took it out hard with pacing courtesy of one of Ichiyama's male coaches. They stayed together on 1:08 pace until almost 18 km before Suzuki slipped away, Ichiyama kicking to win in a 1:08:28 PB and Matsuda closing hard in 1:08:32 for 2nd, likewise a PB. Ichiyama's time moved her up to all-time Japanese #6, with Matsuda picking up the #7 spot and knocking her coach Miwako Yamanaka  out of t

Hironaka, Ando and Ito Score Olympic 10000 m Spots

20-year-old Ririka Hironaka  (Japan Post), marathoner Yuka Ando  (Wacoal) and last year's men's runner-up Tatsuhiko Ito  (Honda) joined the winners of December's 2020 National Championships 10000 m on the Tokyo Olympics team as they took the top spots at today's 2021 National Championships 10000 m in Shizuoka. Hironaka, who debuted over the distance three weeks ago with a 31:30.03, Ando and Kenyan pacer Tabitha Njeri Kamau  (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) were all about the 31:25.00 Olympic standard, going out on sub-31 pace and burning off all competition, including Kamau. Hironaka took 1st in 31:11.75 with Ando next in 31:18.18, each of them clearing the JAAF's two criteria for Olympic selection, finishing in the top three and hitting the standard, to join 2020 winner Hitomi Niiya  (Sekisui Kagaku) on the Olympic team. No other women broke 32 minutes, 2021 National University Half Marathon champion Narumi Kobayashi  (Meijo Univ.) running 32:08.45, the 8th-fastest Japanese

Douglas Wakiihuri Awarded Medal of Honor for Bridging Divide Between Japan and Kenya

Former marathon runner Douglas Wakiihuri  has been awarded Japan's Spring Medal of Honor, an award recognizing individuals who have make exceptional contributions to Japanese society and become role models. Japan has produced a lot of distance runners, but Wakiihuri was the first Kenyan to pass through the Japanese development system.  His contributions to the sports and cultural exchange between Japan and Kenya are held in high esteem. Speaking in fluent Japanese from his home in Nairobi, an ebullient Wakiihuri said, "I am very happy. I owe a longstanding debt to everyone in Japan. The joy I feel is not just mine, but belongs to all of them. I am truly grateful."  Wakiihuri joined the S&B corporate team in 1983. "I was just 19 years old," he recalls. "Japan gave me a chance." Under the leadership of the late coach Kiyoshi Nakamura , Wakiihuri won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1987 Rome World Championships and the silver medal at the 1988