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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 collegiate women's time ever, for 3rd. The great Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) was last in 34:00.53 after giving it one last try to make her final Olympic team.

Behind Kenyan pacers Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Aisan Kogyo) and Cleophas Kandie (Mitsubishi Juko), Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei), 2021 Hakone Ekiden champ Komazawa University's Ren Tazawa and Mebuki Suzuki, Ito and others went out dead even with the 27:28.00 Olympic standard. As the pace slowed toward 27:45 Ichida dropped off, leaving it for the Komazawa duo and Ito to battle over the final laps. 

With 800 m to go Ito took off, passing sub-27 man Kwemoi on the back stretch of the last lap but unable to hold him off as Kwemoi crossed the line in 27:33.33 to Ito's 27:33.38. Ito clocked 2:34 for the last 1000 m with his last two laps in in 62 and 59 after closing the gap to Kwemoi. But while he missed hitting the finish line first the national title his it was enough to guarantee Ito's place next to 2020 winner Akira Aizawa (Asahi Kasei), his friend and rival since their Hakone days, on the Olympic team.

Tazawa, 20, was next in a PB of 27:39.21 with 19-year-old Suzuki just behind in 27:41.68. Together they were just the third and fourth Japanese-born collegiate runners to ever break 27:45, Tazawa coming just one second short of Suguru Osako's Japanese-born collegiate record of 27:38.31. Ryota Natori (Konica Minolta) won the B-heat in 28:12.62.

2021 National Championships 10000 m

Ecopa Stadium, Shizuoka, 3 May 2021

Women's 10000 m
1. Ririka Hironaka (Japan Post0 - 31:11.75 - PB
2. Yuka Ando (Wacoal) - 31:18.18 - PB
3. Narumi Kobayashi (Meijo Univ.) - 32:08.45 - PB
4. Harumi Okamoto (Yamada Holdings) - 32:12.31
5. Sakiho Tsutsui (Yamada Holdings) - 32:16.07
6. Shiori Yano (Denso) - 32:20.44
7. Momoka Kawaguchi (Toyota JidoshokkI) - 32:21.36 
8. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 32:24.86 - PB
9. Akane Yabushita (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 32:26.24
10. Ikumi Fukura (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 32:29.42
DNF - Tabitha Njeri Kamau (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo)

Men's 10000 m A-Heat
OP - Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Aisan Kogyo) - 27:33.33
1. Tatsuhiko Ito (Honda) - 27:33.38
2. Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 27:39.21 - PB
3. Mebuki Suzuki (Komazawa Univ.) - 27:41.68 - PB
OP - Cleophas Kandie (Mitsubishi Juko) - 27:45.07
4. Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) - 27:54.45
5. Keijiro Mogi (Asahi Kasei) - 28:01.32
6. Tatsuya Maruyama (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 28:01.80
7. Hiroto Inoue (Mitsubishi Juko) - 28:03.39
8. Yudai Okamoto (Sunbelx) - 28:04.17
9. Tatsuya Oike (Toyota Boshoku) - 28:04.60
10. Kyohei Hosoya (Kurosaki Harima) - 28:05.88
DNF - Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei)

Men's 10000 m B-Heat
1. Ryota Natori (Konica Minolta) - 28:12.62
2. Yusuke Tamura (Kurosaki Harima) - 28:15.66
3. Kiyoshi Koga (Yasukawa Denki) - 28:17.85
4. Hiroto Fujimagari (Toyota Kyushu) - 28:23.57
5. Kotaro Kondo (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:24.84

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
Ririka Hironaka is truly a special athlete. She has already bettered her JP teammate Ayuko Suzuki's PB of 31:18 in the 10 000m and she is only 20 years old. I hope whoever coaches her does so with longevity in mind as she has all the attributes of an athlete who could become one of Japan's best. I would hate to read in a few years of an early retirement from the sport due to burn out or injury. Being with Hitomi Niiya in the Olympic team I hope proves beneficial. Hitomi certainly knows all about burn out and injury and is almost one minute faster at the 10 000m distance. There is a lot to learn from a great senior like Hitomi. I hope both athletes and of course, Yuka Ando, have a good showing at the Olympics.
Eric in Seattle said…
Eric in Seattle, I think Yuki Ando also made the Olympic A grade for 10k. I think there are just 3 women who have made the A for 10k, so this could be her first Olympic Team (unless there are a few others).
Andrew Armiger said…
Ah, too bad for Fukushi.

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