Thursday, July 24, 2014

Olympic Sprinter Yamagata Turns Down Corporate League Offers to Train in U.S. With Seiko Sponsorship

translated by Brett Larner

On July 23 it was announced that London Olympics sprinter Ryota Yamagata (22, Keio Univ.) will join Seiko Holdings Corporation and be based in California, U.S.A.  Yamagata's decision was a big one, made in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  Turning down offers from many top corporate league teams, he entered into a sponsorship agreement with Seiko Holdings, manufacturers of watches and other precision mechanical equipment.

Seiko does not currently have a track and field team, but Yamagata intends to move to California by himself following his graduation next spring and as part of his agreement with Seiko, at his own request he will be responsible for choosing his coach, trainer, training location and environment himself.  "Maybe I could have gotten the best support somewhere else, but I want to open up new ways of doing things," he commented.  Having developed his training menus through his own study ever since high school, Yamagata's decision to go it alone comes as no surprise.  He plans to brush up his language skills from now until next spring.  "I'm okay when it comes to everyday conversation," he said.  "I just have to study more."

Seiko first became the official Olympic timekeeper 50 years ago at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  As an official partner of the IAAF it is also the official timekeeper of the World Track and Field Championships, giving it a strong connection with the world of athletics.  "Yamagata will be 28 at the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and that will be the culmination of his career," said Keio University head coach Shintaro Kawai.  "After his retirement he will have the option of working at Seiko if he wants, which was also part of the decision."

In the 2012 London Olympics heats Yamagata ran 10.07, the fastest-ever by a Japanese athlete at the Olympics.  Following that he went through a period of injury, but expectations are still high that he will bring Japan its first sub-10.  By taking his game to one of track and field's great powers, Yamagata is aiming to go even further.

World Junior Championships Day Two - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner
photo courtesy of David Monti, Race Results Weekly

Asian junior record holder Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) brought Japan its first medal of the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, taking bronze in 10.34 (-0.6) behind Americans Kendal Williams and Trayvon Bromell.  Kiryu gave the nation a scare by barely making it to the final when he finished 4th in his semi-final.  In both the semi and final he displayed problems with the second half of his race, but what he had on the day proved enough for him to get on the podium and join past World Juniors medalists like Shota Iizuka and Genki Dean in the Japanese books.

Further history was made when both Nobuya Kato and Kaisei Yui got through the semis to make the men's 400 m final, the first time two Japanese athletes have ever made a world-level final.  Both won their opening heats yesterday.  In semi-final 1, Yui ran a PB 46.68 to get into the final on time.  Kato, running semi-final 2, came from far back in the last 100 m to win again in 46.26, the slowest of the three semi-winning times but looking like he had plenty in reserve for the final.

In the distance race of the day, Maki Izumida and Fuyuka Kimura initially took the women's 5000 m out in a replay of the men's 10000 m, running together on a realistic pace but quickly opening a big lead on a more lackadaisically-paced pack.  After Kimura's initial move Izumida led through 1000 m on 15:40 pace, just slower than her best and a moderate PB pace for Kimura, but the African chasers were quicker than the men to get to work and by 2000 m eventual winner Alemitu Heroye (Ethiopia) had taken over.  A 2:52.88 third kilometer put both Japanese athletes out of contention, but although Izumida advanced late in the race she came up just short of retaking the rear end of the all-African pack.  Heroye took gold in 15:10.08 just ahead of teammate Alemitu Hawi, silver in 15:10.46.  Kenyan Agnes Jebet Tirop picked up bronze in 15:43.12.  Izumida was only 6th in 15:55.26, but with Tirop slower than both Izumida's PB and opening pace on a different day it might have been another bronze for Japan.  Kimura was close behind in 8th in 15:59.72.

In the day's other final, Rena Goto and Kana Minemura performed at about the same level as Izumida and Kimura, taking 6th and 7th in the women's 10000 m race walk.  With winner Anezka Drahotova (Czech Republic) setting a world record of 42:47.25 and many others setting national junior records, both Goto and Minemura set new personal bests, Goto clocking 45:54.07 and Minemura 46:22.88.

Other qualifiers included Yusuke Sakanashi, who won his 400 mH heat in 52.46 to make the semi-final, men's long jumpers Shotaro Shiroyama and Kodai Sakuma, and men's high jumper Yu Nakazawa.  The IAAF World Junior Championships continue through Sunday.

IAAF World Junior Championships Day Two
Eugene, U.S.A., 7/23/14
click here for complete results

Women's 5000 m
1. Alemitu Heroye (Ethiopia) - 15:10.08
2. Alemitu Hawi (Ethiopia) - 15:10.46
3. Agnes Jebet Tirop (Kenya) - 15:43.12
4. Stella Chesang (Uganda) - 15:53.85 - NJR
5. Loice Chemnung (Kenya) - 15:55.17
6. Maki Izumida (Japan) - 15:55.26
7. Courtney Powell (Australia) - 15:56.00
8. Fuyuka Kimura (Japan) - 15:59.72
9. Julian Forsey (Canada) - 16:02.55
10. Darya Maslova (Kyrgyzstan) - 16:07.58

Men's 400 m Semi-Final 1
1. Tyler Brown (U.S.A.) - 45.97 - Q
2. Alexander Lerionka Sampao (Kenya) - 46.21 - Q
3. Kaisei Yui (Japan) - 46.68 - q
4. Elliot Rutter (Great Britain) - 46.93
5. Oleksiy Pozdnyakov (Ukraine) - 47.43
6. Batuhan Altintas (Turkey) - 47.46
7. Joshua Robinson (Australia) - 47.72
8. Karabo Sibanda (Botswana) - 48.30

Men's 400 m Semi-Final 2
1. Nobuya Kato (Japan) - 46.26 - Q
2. Abbas Abubakar Abbas (Bahrain) - 46.28 - Q
3. Jack Crosby (Great Britain) - 46.35 - q
4. Luka Janezic (Slovenia) - 47.06
5. Warren Hazel (St. Kitts-Nevis) - 47.22
6. Janeko Cartwright (Bahamas) - 47.88
7. Martin Manley (Jamaica) - 48.38
DNF - Jamal Walton (Cayman Islands)

Men's 100 m Final -0.6
1. Kendal Williams (U.S.A.) - 10.21
2. Trayvon Bromell (U.S.A.) - 10.28
3. Yoshihide Kiryu (Japan) - 10.34
4. Levi Cadogan (Barbados) - 10.39
5. Cejhae Greene (Antigua and Barbuda) - 10.43
6. Ojie Edoburun (Great Britain) - 10.45
7. Andre Azonwanna (Canada) - 10.46
8. Jonathan Farinha (Trinidad and Tobago) - 10.47

Men's 100 m Semi-Final 1 +0.0
1. Trayvon Bromell (U.S.A.) - 10.29 - Q
2. Levi Cadogan (Barbados) - 10.31 - Q
3. Ojie Edoburun (Great Britain) - 10.36 - q
4. Yoshihide Kiryu (Japan) - 10.38 - q
5. Austin Hamilton (Sweden) - 10.64
6. Sydney Siame (Zambia) - 10.68
7. Michael O'Hara (Jamaica) - 10.69
8. Luca Antonio Cassano (Italy) - 10.70

Men's 100 m Semi-Final 2 -0.3
1. Cejhae Greene (Antigua and Barbuda) - 10.39 - Q
2. Jonathan Farinha (Trinidad and Tobago) - 10.41 - Q
3. Jevaughn Minzie (Jamaica) - 10.43
4. Takuya Kawakami (Japan) - 10.47
5. Youxue Mo (China) - 10.47
6. Morten Dalgaard Madsen (Denmark) - 10.48
7. Thando Roto (South Africa) - 10.61
8. Aykut Ay (Turkey) - 10.62

Women's 100 m Semi-Final 3 +0.9
1. Kayline Whitney (U.S.A.) - 11.44 - Q
2. Ewa Swoboda (Poland) - 11.51 - Q
3. Keianna Albury (Bahamas) - 11.76
4. Kedisha Dallas (Jamaica) - 11.77
5. Anna Doi (Japan) - 11.84
6. Floriane Gnafoua (France) - 11.88
7. Aaliyah Telesford (Trinidad and Tobago) - 11.94
8. Natasha Brown (Canada) - 12.02

Men's 400 mH Heat 4
1. Yusuke Sakanashi (Japan) - 52.46 - Q
2. Okeen Williams (Jamaica) - 52.88 - Q
3. Jordan Sherwood (Canada) - 53.04 - q
4. Javier Delgado (Spain) - 53.92
5. Sang-Hyeok Kwon (South Korea) - 55.13
6. Oneyker Aragon (Nicaragua) - 57.41 - NJR
DQ - Ned Justeen Azemia (Seychelles)
DQ - Sid-Ali Khedim (Algeria)

Men's 110 mH Semi-Final 1 -1.6
1. Wilhem Belocian (France) - 13.23 - Q
2. Nick Anderson (U.S.A.) - 13.68 - Q
3. Taio Kanai (Japan) - 13.85
4. Roger Iribarne (Cuba) - 13.87
5. Gabriel Constantino (Brazil) - 13.93
6. Ivor Metcalf (Australia) - 13.94
7. David Franco (Venezuela) - 13.98
8. Job Beintema (Netherlands) - 14.10

Men's 110 mH Semi-Final 3 -1.7
1. Tyler Mason (Jamaica) - 13.45 - Q
2. Welington Zaza (Liberia) - 13.53 - Q
3. Patrick Elger (Germany) - 13.84
4. Valdo Szucs (Hungary) - 13.93
5. Theophile Viltz (U.S.A.) - 14.02
6. Masahiro Kagimoto (Japan) - 14.04
7. Kirk Lewis (Bahamas) - 14.05
8. Ricardo Torres (Puerto Rico) - 14.34

Women's 10000 m Race Walk
1. Anezka Drahotova (Czech Republic) - 42:47.25 - WJR
2. Na Wang (China) - 44:02.64
3. Yuanyuan Ni (China) - 44:16.72
4. Laura Garcia-Caro (Spain) - 44:32.84 - NJR
5. Maria Perez (Spain) - 44:57.30
6. Rena Goto (Japan) - 45:54.07
7. Kana Minemura (Japan) - 46:22.88
8. Stefany Coronado (Bolivia) - 46:42.06 - NJR
9. Jessica Hancco (Peru) - 46:47.31 - NJR
10. Viktoryia Rashchupkina (Belarus) - 47:00.30
DQ - Eliska Drahotova (Czech Republic)

Men's Long Jump Qualification Group A
1. Jianan Wang (China) - 7.93 m - Q
2. Jose Luis Despaigne (Cuba) - 7.61 m - q
3. Shotaro Shiroyama (Japan) - 7.55 m - q
4. Yasser Triki (Algeria) - 7.35 m - q
5. Laquan Nairn (Bahamas) - 7.29 m

Men's Long Jump Qualification Group B
1. Qing Lin (China) - 7.62 m - q
2. Travonn White (U.S.A.) - 7.50 m - q
3. Kodai Sakuma (Japan) - 7.38 m - q
4. Thobias Nilsson-Montler (Sweden) - 7.37 m - q
5. Harold Barruecos (Italy) - 7.36 m - q

Men's High Jump Qualification Group A
1. Tobias Potye (Germany) - 2.14 m - q
1. Joel Baden (Australia) - 2.14 m - q
1. Mikhail Akimenko (Russia) - 2.14 m - q
4. Christoff Bryan (Jamaica) - 2.14 m - q
5. Andrei Skabeika (Belarus) - 2.14 m - q
6. Yu Nakazawa (Japan) - 2.14 m - q
7. Yeoryios Tessaromatis (Greece) - 2.10 m - q

Men's High Jump Qualification Group B
1. Sanghyeok Woo (South Korea) - 2.14 m - q
1. Falk Wendrich (Germany) - 2.14 m - q
1. Daniel Lysenko (Russia) - 2.14 m - q
4. Dzmitry Nakokau (Belarus) - 2.14 m - q
4. Chris Kandu (Great Britain) - 2.14 m - q
6. Clayton Brown (Jamaica) - 2.10 m - q
11. Daisuke Nakajima (Japan) - 2.00 m

text (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photo (c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

World Junior Championships Day One - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

The men's 10000 m rounded out the day as the only final on the first day of competition at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, U.S.A.  After a slow first lap Keisuke Nakatani of 2013 National University Ekiden champion Komazawa University went to the front to get the race moving, tailed only by 2014 Hakone Ekiden winner Toyo University's Hazuma Hattori.  Ranked 6th and 7th in the field by PB, the two Japanese athletes, both stage winners at January's Hakone Ekiden, were initially ignored by the faster Africans, allowing them to open a lead that at one point maxed at around 100 m.  Despite the gap, the pair's pace was never unrealistic as Nakatani held close to 29:10 pace, roughly 20 second slower than his best.  His projected finishing time based on his splits through 6000 m show how steadily he ran:

1000 m: 29:18.70
2000 m: 29:15.55
3000 m: 29:13.57
4000 m: 29:09.53
5000 m: 29:10.54
6000 m: 29:11.73

The slight surge between 3 and 4000 m severed the connection between the two as Hattori began to drop back, and at roughly the same time a group of the top Africans detached from the relatively placid chase pack and set off in pursuit.  By 7000 m eventual winner Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei (Uganda), the only sub-28 athlete in the field, had run both down and taken the lead.  In a battle over the last kilometer Cheptegei dropped Kenyans Elvis Kipchoge Cheboi and Nicholas Mboroto Kosimbei for the win in 28:32.86, both Cheboi and Kosimbei clearing 28:40.  Nakatani crossed the line in 7th in 29:11.40, less than a second off his pace at halfway, with Hattori running a slight negative split for 8th in 29:12.74.  With only one runner seeded lower than them, Eritrean Afewerki Berhane who took 4th in a >1 minute PB of 28:45.83, finishing ahead of them it was a decent showing by both Japanese collegiates.

In heats and qualifying action:
  • Both Nobuya Kato and Kaisei Yui won their heats in the men's 400 m to advance to the semi-final, Kato recording the fastest time of the day in 46.23.
  • Yoshihide Kiryu, a teammate of Hattori's at Toyo University, won his 100 m heat in 10.40 (-0.5), with Takuya Kawakami also advancing in 10.46 (+1.4). 
  • An Olympian in high school, Anna Doi was the only Japanese woman to advance in the 100 m as she finished 2nd in her heat in 11.65 (+1.4).
  • Both Masahiro Kagimoto and Taio Kanai advanced in the men's 110 mH, each finishing 3rd in his heat.
  • Shiori Toma squeaked into the women's javelin final, finishing 12th among 12 qualifiers with a throw of 51.64 m.

The World Junior Championships continue tomorrow.

IAAF World Junior Championships Day One
Eugene, U.S.A., 7/22/14
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m
1. Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei (Uganda) - 28:32.86
2. Elvis Kipchoge Cheboi (Kenya) - 28:35.20
3. Nicholas Mboroto Kosimbei (Kenya) - 28:38.68
4. Afewerki Berhane (Eritrea) - 28:45.83 - PB
5. Abdallah Kibet Mande (Uganda) - 28:53.77
6. Yihunilign Adane (Ethiopia) - 28:54.84
7. Keisuke Nakatani (Japan) - 29:11.40
8. Hazuma Hattori (Japan) - 29:12.74
9. Robleh Djama Aden (Djibouti) - 29:43.49 - NJR
10. Carlos Mayo (Spain) - 29:52.31 - PB

Women's 800 m Heat 2
1. Georgia Wassall (Australia) - 2:05.69 - Q
2. Dureti Edao (Ethiopia) - 2:06.15 - Q
3. Alina Ammann (Germany) - 2:06.91 - Q
4. Asli Arik (Turkey) - 2:07.26
5. Charlotte Mouchet (France) - 2:07.38
6. Maria Pia Fernandez (Uruguay) - 2:10.97
7. Ryoko Hirano (Japan) - 2:11.99

Men's 400 m Heat 2
1. Kaisei Yui (Japan) - 47.06 - Q
2. Karabo Sibanda (Botswana) - 47.96 - Q
3. Nathon Allen (Jamaica) - 48.06 - Q
4. Sonwabiso Skhosana (South Africa) - 48.16
5. Wei-Hsu Wang (Taiwan) - 48.61
6. Graeme Thompson (Canada) - 49.01
7. Hussain Riza (Moldova) - 52.42

Men's 400 m Heat 3
1. Nobuya Kato (Japan) - 46.23 - Q
2. Lamar Bruton-Grinnage (U.S.A.) - 46.74 - Q
3. Oleksiy Pozdnyakov (Ukraine) - 47.18 - Q
4. Joshua Cunningham (Canada) - 47.40 - q
5. Leungo Scotch (Botswana) - 47.81
6. Brandon Valentine-Parris (Saint Vincent & Grenadines) - 48.36 - NJR
7. Luatimu Samau (Samoa) - 56.71

Women's 100 m Heat 3 +0.4
1. Vitoria Cristina Rosa (Brazil) - 11.60 - Q
2. Tebogo Mamathu (South Africa) - 11.75 - Q
3. Aaliyah Telesford (Trinidad and Tobago) - 11.81 - Q
4. Evelyn Rivera (Colombia) - 12.17
5. Sayaka Adachi (Japan) - 12.24
6. Alexandra Toth (Austria) - 12.26
7. Adrine Monagi (Papua New Guinea) - 12.79
DQ - Angela Tenorio (Ecuador)

Women's 100 m Heat 7 +1.4
1. Kaylin Whitney (U.S.A.) - 11.48 - Q
2. Anna Doi (Japan) - 11.65 - Q
3. Eva Berger (France) - 11.75 - Q
4. Lisa Marie Mwayie (Germany) - 11.95
5. Aila Del Ponte (Switzerland) - 11.99
6. Larissa Chambers (Australia) - 12.05
7. Quashira McIntosh (Virgin Islands) - 12.44

Men's 100 m Heat 2 +1.4
1. Jevaughn Minzie (Jamaica) - 10.32 - Q
2. Josh Clarke (Australia) - 10.36 - Q
3. Takuya Kawakami (Japan) - 10.46 - Q
4. Austin Hamilton (Sweden) - 10.56 - q
5. Amanuel Abebe (Ethiopia) - 10.99
6. Faresa Kapisi (American Samoa) - 11.66

Men's 100 m Heat 7 -0.5
1. Yoshihide Kiryu (Japan) - 10.40 - Q
2. Yaniel Carrero (Cuba) - 10.58 - Q
3. Aykut Ay (Turkey) - 10.71 - Q
4. Samuli Samuelsson (Finland) - 10.78
5. Sebastian Schurman (Germany) - 10.85
6. Quentin Leguay (Monaco) - 12.40
DNF - Cajuniba Okirua (Cook Islands)

Men's 110 mH Heat 3 -0.2
1. Nick Anderson (U.S.A.) - 13.61 - Q
2. Valdo Szucs (Hungary) - 13.66 - Q
3. Masahiro Kagimoto (Japan) - 13.68 - Q
4. Ricardo Torres (Puerto Rico) - 13.71 - q - NJR
5. Joshuan Berrios (Colombia) - 13.99
6. Arasy Akbar Witarsa (Indonesia) - 14.21
7. Yakubu Ibrahim (Ghana) - 14.61 - NJR
8. Gaston Sayago (Argentina) - 16.92

Men's 110 mH Heat 7 +0.6
1. Marvin Williams (Jamaica) - 13.71 - Q
2. Francisco Lopez (Spain) - 13.75 - Q
3. Taio Kanai (Japan) - 13.81 - Q
4. Chih-Hao Lin (Taiwan) - 14.00
5. Dawid Zebrowski (Poland) - 14.04
6. Francisco Lopez (Chile) - 14.36
7. Kin-Lok Fung (Hong Kong) - 14.43
8. Dongmin Shin (Korea) - 14.73 - NJR

Women's Long Jump Qualification Group B
1. Nadia Akpana Assa (Norway) - 6.39 m - Q - NJR
2. Akela Jones (Barbados) - 6.32 m - Q
3. Rogui Sow (France) - 6.19 m - q
4. Genesis Romero (Venezuela) - 6.17 m - q
5. Maryse Luzolo (Germany) - 6.15 m - q
6. Quanesha Burks (U.S.A.) - 6.12 m - q
11. Yumi Uchinokura (Japan) - 5.77 m

Women's Javelin Throw Qualification Group A
1. Maria Andrejczyk (Poland) - 56.23 m - Q
2. Sofi Flinck (Sweden) - 56.04 m - Q
3. Tereza Vytlacilova (Czech Republic) - 53.06 m - Q
4. Marie-Therese Obst (Norway) - 52.59 m - q
5. Kiho Kuze (Japan) - 51.55 m

Women's Javelin Throw Qualification Group B
1. Marcelina Witek (Poland) - 55.78 m - Q
2. Ekaterina Starygina (Russia) - 54.80 m - Q
3. Christine Winkler (Germany) - 53.06 m - Q
4. Simona Dobilaite (Lithuania) - 52.43 m - q
5. Sara Kolak (Croatia) - 51.88 m - q
6. Arantza Moreno (Spain) - 51.67 m - q
7. Edivania Araujo (Brazil) - 51.64 m - q
8. Shiori Toma (Japan) - 51.64 m - q

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, July 21, 2014

Otona no Taimu Toraiaru - Time Trials for Grown Ups

by Brett Larner

Japan is unique in having one of the most highly-developed elite running systems in the world, an enormous and growing population of amateur runners, and mass popularity among the general public in elite racing as a spectator sport.  But like anywhere else there is separation between those elite and amateur worlds, the university and corporate teams, out of sight except for their televised races and rarely interacting with the public.

A university-aged pacer in a blue and white Otona no Time Trial singlet leads amateur runners in an early heat.

One feature of the elite circuit is the time trial meet.  Time trial meets are day- or weekend-long series of long-distance track races finely graded by target time.  The largest of the them, Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series, had 45 heats of 5000 m in 14 hours in one edition last year, each heat with 30-40 runners ranging from serious amateurs in the early heats to Olympians and national champions in the latest, fastest heats.  The atmosphere at the most elite meets like the Golden Games in Nobeoka and Hokuren Distance Challenge is electric, different from a regular distance carnival or track meet with supporters and fans crowding the track from the fifth lane outward, music playing over loudspeakers and an MC calling out encouragement to the runners and working the crowds.

Another pacer calls out encouragement with one lap to go as Ekiden News staff work the finish area.

For three years the members of the Ekiden News website have been working tirelessly to bring time trial meets further into the public eye.  Dedicated fans trying to spread their love of all things Hakone, the Tokyo-based EN crew goes to every Nittai and other major time trials meets in the Tokyo area and travel the country going to GGN, and HDC and all the other big events, filming and documenting every heat with equal enthusiasm and respect, posting all the videos on Youtube and promoting them on Twitter and Facebook.  Last year they made the logical leap and started their own time trial meet, the Otona no Time Trial ("Time Trials for Grown Ups") at Oda Field in the heart of Tokyo's Shibuya fashion hub.  On July 20 the meet was held for the second time.

Yoshiki Kawauchi paces one runner while meet organizer Takeshi Nishimoto runs alongside giving encouragement.

The Otona no Time Trial meet is the brainchild of Ekiden News founder Takeshi Nishimoto, an effort to bring the excitement of Golden Games in Nobeoka and this elite racing experience to the average runner.  All the ingredients were there: fourteen heats of 5000 m graded by time plus 1500 m heats and a kids' 1000 m, professional timing and photography, lap counting, a sound system pumping tunes, spectators encouraged to stand on the track in lane five and cheer.

Naoko Takahashi, in pink, paces a group while giving them advice over the sound system.

And there were unique touches: individualized bibs with each entrant's first name from the 30 min+ runners in heat A to those trying to break 15 in heat N, pacing and personal encouragement in each heat from the likes of Olympic marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi, Yuki Kawauchi's middle brother Yoshiki Kawauchi, and university and corporate-league athletes brought in for the job wearing custom-made Otono no Time Trial singlets with "Follow Me" on the back, and small-scale sponsorship from New Balance, Asics, Descente, Zoff sunglasses and Red Bull to make it all possible.

Nishimoto interviewing on the run.

While the rest of the Ekiden News crew worked as photographers and in the finish area, throughout it all Nishimoto worked as MC, walking the track and infield as he called out encouragement to each runner by name and urging them on to beat time goals, told the crowd who was on PB pace and jumped in with his mic to conduct micro-interviews on the run with pacers and racers, all with the same energy and enthusiasm as if it were a "real" race.  The energy rubbed off, people from the early heats staying to watch the faster ones and the numbers on and around the track growing as curious onlookers from a nearby Brazil festival came in to watch.  Despite a sudden thunderstorm that delayed the final four heats the crowd was thick by the time of the final, fastest heat, and even though it was only won in 15:08 people were as excited and raucous as if they were watching a National Championships, energy they shared as much with the last-place finisher in the last heat as with its winner.

A pacer in an early heat guides one runner in to the finish as a race staff member directs those finishing and those with one lap to go to separate chutes.

Having experienced for themselves the excitement of what it's like to be an elite, there's no doubt that even the 6- and 7-minute kilometer hobby runners came away from the Otona no Time Trial with both increased interest in elite racing and renewed dedication to their own running.  In a place where almost all races are organized by government bodies and other cautious, slow-moving and slow-thinking committees, this was something truly innovative, an event put on with complete professionalism by fans outside the system to share the magic of the thing they love with others, a race by the people for the people but, critically, with an atmosphere of achievement regardless of ability one step beyond a simple "everyone's a winner."  Within that nuance lies the core of what Nishimoto and Ekiden News sought to communicate about elite running to participants, and in that respect the Otona no Time Trial was indeed a win for everyone.

text and photos (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Imai Wins Second-Straight Shibetsu Half

by Brett Larner

Continuing a solid 2014 that saw him break 2:10 for the first time at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, course record holder Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) returned to successfully defend his title at Sunday's Shibetsu Half Marathon.  Running in sunny and humid conditions with temperatures around 30 degrees, Imai had no trouble dropping main competition Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) late in the race to take the win in 1:04:07, 43 seconds off his record last year but still the 4th-fastest winning time in Shibetsu's 28-year history.  Ogura, only 14th in 1:05:56 last year, held off Matsumiya for 2nd in 1:04:21, the veteran Matsumiya ten seconds back.  Japan-based since April, 2014 Incheon Asian Games marathon medal contender Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) was 6th in 1:04:57.

The women's field was split between the half marathon and 10 km divisions.  A regular in the 10 km in Shibetsu, Misato Horie (Team Noritz) moved up to the event's half this year with a win in 1:14:37.  13 seconds back, Yui Okada (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) outkicked Horie's teammate Kikuyo Tsuzaki by 1 second for 2nd in 1:14:50.  Team Daihatsu runners dominated the 10 km with three of the top five places, Mizuki Matsuda getting the win in 33:50.

More important than the relatively slow times was the focus on running in heat and humidity.  As part of its mission, the new marathon National Team program, of which Imai is part, records detailed physiological data on athletes' performances in heat in an attempt to identify those most likely to perform well in the conditions they will face in summer international championships marathons leading up to the big one, Tokyo 2020.   Summertime Tokyo can have extreme humidity and temps in the 30s, and if last year's Moscow World Championships, where the mid-afternoon start times brought the worst conditions for the competitors, prime-time broadcasts in Japan for major IAAF sponsor TBS, a medal in the women's marathon and nearly another in the men's, are any indication there will be no mercy for the rest of the world weather-wise at the Tokyo Olympics.  Don't act surprised if it's another sauna.  Until then Japan's best will be trained and studied to maximize every advantage to bring a medal on home soil.  Everyone else has six years to figure out how to cope.

28th Shibetsu Half Marathon and 10 km
Shibetsu, Hokkaido, 7/20/14

Men's Half Marathon
1. Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:07
2. Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:21
3. Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:04:31
4. Takuji Morimoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:04:55
5. Yuma Morii (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 1:04:56
6. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) - 1:04:57
7. Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) - 1:05:22
8. Kohei Ogino (Team Fujitsu) - 1:05:26
9. Yu Chiba (Team Honda) - 1:05:37
10. Shoya Kurokawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:05:41

Women's Half Marathon
1. Misato Horie (Team Noritz) - 1:14:37
2. Yui Okada (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:14:50
3. Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Team Noritz) - 1:14:51
4. Ai Migita (Team Wacoal) - 1:14:58
5. Yuka Hakoyama (Team Wacoal) - 1:16:26

Women's 10 km
1. Mizuki Matsuda (Team Daihatsu) - 33:50
2. Ayumi Sakaida (Team Daihatsu) - 34:04
3. Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) - 34:14
4. Ayaka Inoue (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 34:28
5. Sayaka Murakami (Team Daihatsu) - 34:31

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, July 18, 2014

Yoshihide Kiryu Named Captain of Japanese Men's World Juniors Team

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A 9-second time would give Japan a jolt of momentum.  100 m sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu (18, Toyo Univ.) left Narita Airport for the World Junior Track and Field Championships starting July 22nd in Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A.  Based on his experience at last summer's World Track and Field Championships and other accomplishments, Kiryu was named captain of the Japanese men's team at World Juniors.  His first time playing such a big role, Kiryu was hopeful for the team's chances, saying, "I've never been captain before so I don't know how reliable I'll be, but I want everyone to have a great time racing." 

Kiryu has fully recovered from the pain in his right foot that was bothering him before last month's National Track and Field Championships and has set his sights on both Japan's first sub-10 clocking and the 100 m gold medal.  With the men's 100 m getting underway on the first day of competition Kiryu will be butting heads with 9.97 American Travyon Bromell right from go.  "I just want to enjoy competing," he said.  "I'd love to drop the time but either way I'm aiming for the top.  I want to bring the results and get into a good flow I can ride all the way."  Along with the 100 m, Kiryu is scheduled to run second on the 4x100 m relay team.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Omuta H.S. Second-Year Shota Onizuka Heads to World Juniors: "I Want to Test My Strength"

translated by Brett Larner
photo by rikujolove

Omuta H.S. second-year Shota Onizuka, 16, is bound for Eugene, Oregon in the U.S.A. where he will compete in the July 22-27 World Junior Championships.  The meet features outstanding under-20 competitors from around the world including 43 from Japan selected from among the country's best high school and university athletes.

Onizuka is the first-ever Omuta H.S. student to be picked for the national team.  Last year he was Omuta's anchor in its runner-up finish at the National High School Ekiden Championships.  On the track he was also 2nd in a tight race at the National High School Championships, but the disappointment of losing by a margin of only one second served as motivation for his training and at a time trial meet this May he ran 13:58.43, the fastest time so far this year by a Japanese high schooler [above photo].

Onizuka leaves Japan on July 17 and will run the 5000 m at World Juniors along with Tokai University's Kazuto Kawabata.  "I want to bring the kind of running that will let me break my PB," Onizuka said of his goals for the Championships.  "I want to test my strength against foreign competition."  Omuta H.S. ekiden team head coach Ken Akaike gave Onizuka his encouragement, commenting, "He's part of the generation that is targeting the Tokyo Olympics.  I hope that he comes back with a feeling for the responsibility of wearing the Rising Sun and for the level of competition in the rest of the world and that it serves as a stimulus for his continued growth."

photo (c) 2014 M. Kawaguchi
all rights reserved

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kaori and Shiori Morita, Twin Sisters Dreaming of 2020

translated by Brett Larner

Yokohama natives and graduates of the city's Eda H.S. where they made a major impact on the distance events at last year's National High School Track and Field Championships, 18-year-old identical twin sisters Kaori and Shiori Morita joined the Yokohama-residing Panasonic women's corporate team this spring with the shared dream of making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  While working office jobs in the same division at Panasonic, the pair are pouring their sweat and tears into their training, preparing themselves with a solid base.

The sisters began to run seriously their first year of junior high school and, both showing exceptional coordination and ability, together qualified for the 800 m and 1500 m at Nationals just a year later.  At home they studied running form by trying to copy what they saw in videos, devoting themselves more and more to the world of competition.

At Eda H.S. they were also part of the school track and field team.  Kaori suffered from lower back pain and often had to take leaves of absence from the team, but by quietly training in the pool she continued to develop and strengthen her cardiovascular system.  As a senior, she ran a Kanagawa prefecture high school 1500 m record 4:17.59 at last summer's National High School Championships.

Shiori has a reputation for mental toughness.  "She has her off days, but when it comes to races nobody can match her focus," says Kaori of her sister.  Alongside Kaori, Shiori ran last summer's National High School Championships as a senior, finishing 15th in the 3000 m final.

At last January's National Women's Ekiden, the twins were selected to run the Sixth and Seventh Stages.  Kaori was 2nd on her stage and Shiori 3rd on hers, both making major contributions to the Kanagawa prefecture team's overall 5th-place podium finish.  "Recently they've started to realize that when they do well together their happiness is multiplied many times over," said their mother Chiharu Morita, 49, taking pleasure in her daughters' growth.

Post-graduation the sisters chose to follow their fellow Eda H.S. graduate Mika Yoshikawa, a London Olympian at 5000 m and 10000 m, to the Panasonic women's corporate team.  Every day from the morning until 3:30 p.m. they work desk jobs, heading to a track in Kawasaki after work for practice.  "At first they were indistinguishable," smiled head coach Toshiaki Kurabayashi, 49, but, he said, "they're both honest people, and with good futures as local stars they're enjoying themselves."

In May the twins made their corporate league debuts at the East Japan Corporate Track and Field Championships.  In the 3000 m Kaori was 4th and Shiori 11th, while in the 1500 m Kaori took 5th and Shiori 7th.  Six years remain until their Olympic goal.  They haven't decided yet which event they will target, but, both said, "We want to develop into athletes people can cheer for."  "Having a familiar rival nearby will be a big driving force," Kaori continued.  "I want us to train and race together all the way there," added Shiori.  With each giving the other a steady push in the back, the twins hope to chase their dream together.