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Cali 22 World U20 Championships Day 6 Japanese Results

16-year-old Yuya Sawada continued her climb through the ranks of Japanese women's middle distance, building on her 4:15.29 PB in the 1500 m heats with a 4:12.87 PB for 6th in the final on the last day of the Cali 22 World U20 Championships. With Ethiopian Birke Haylom setting a championships record 4:04.27 and Kenyans Brenda Chebet and Purity Chepkirui both under 4:08 Sawada was still far off the medals, but having come to Cali with a best of 4:17.75 she bridged half the gap. 

Her time was just 0.02 off the U18 NR held by Yuriko Kobayashi and moved her up behind Kobayashi to all-time #2 on the Japanese U20 and high school lists. And having done it with two big performances in high-pressure races Sawada is now one of the highest-potential young athletes Japan has. Strangely enough, though, none of the others were entered in the 5000 m, mirroring Japanese women's absence from the 3000 m.

The two men in the 3000 m steeplechase final couldn't match Sawada's performance, Asahi Kuroda taking 12th in 8:56.36 and Ryotaro Onuma 14th in 9:14.37, but the men's 4x400 m team equalled her placing at 6th. Shion Arita got the team off to a good start, with Masataka Tomoda moving up into 4th. But just as Tomoda was about to overtake 3rd, Spain's Angel Gonzalez cut in on him from the outside near the 200 m point, forcing Tomoda to break stride to avoid clipping him or falling, and letting South African Lythe Pillay go by. 

Tomoda recovered and went by both Gonzalez and Pillay near the end of the curve, but just as he started to move back toward 3rd at the top of the home straight Gonzalez cut him off again, possibly making contact this time. His momentum broken again, Tomoda lost ground and handed off in 6th. 3rd and 4th runners Sojiro Moritaka and Daiki Ogawa tried to get back into medal contention, but ultimately Japan stayed 6th in 3:07.47. It was a disappointing outcome given the team's strong performance in the heats, but together with the Japanese men's 4th-place finish in the Oregon World Championships final showed that Japan's strength in the relays isn't limited to the 4x100 m anymore.

In told Japan's count in Cali was one gold medal, one silver, two bronzes and seven top 8 placings. That almost matched the count in Eugene, where Japan won one gold, two silvers, one bronze and had five other top 8 finishes. As in Eugene race walks played a heavy role in the medal count here, but with success in a wider range of events in Cali it was a good team result overall, even without any long distance women and with both men a DNS in the 3000 m final.

© 2022 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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