Friday, September 4, 2015

Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Announces Flatter New Course

https://www.oita-press.co.jp/1010000000/2015/09/02/001710317
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20150901/ath15090118280005-n1.html
http://mainichi.jp/sports/news/20150902k0000m050018000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have announced course changes for the event's 65th running on Feb. 7, 2016, the first course changes since 2010.  The start at Umitamago and finish at Oita Municipal Field will remain the same, but the two turnaround points will each be extended roughly a kilometer while the loop section through the city of Oita will be eliminated.  By reducing the number of times the course crosses bridges over the Oita River organizers believe the race will become flatter and faster, their main goal in making the changes.

The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon has also been named as the final selection race for the Japanese national team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in the visually impaired marathon category.  2015 IPC World Championships medalists Tadashi Horikoshi (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) and Misato Michishita (OBRC) have already been chosen for the 3-man, 3-woman Rio teams, with the second members to be selected at Beppu-Oita.  The remaining members will be chosen from the top Japanese finishers at the 2015 Hokkaido Marathon and 2015 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon.

Governor Katsusada Hirose commented, "A flatter course means that runners can produce better times, and my hope is that that will elevate this event's stature as an elite marathon.  There is a good chance that it will also become a selection race for the Tokyo Paralympics, so next year's race will be extremely important."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Japan Reacts to 2020 Tokyo Olympic Logo Withdrawal

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH915QR9H91UTIL032.html

translated by Brett Larner
photo via Wikipedia

Three luminaries gave Asahi their views on Tuesday's withdrawal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics logo designed by Kenjiro Sano and officially released in late July.

Mitsuru Yaku, manga artist
With regard to the reason for the withdrawal, the organizing committee has repeatedly said, "We have been unable to obtain the understanding of the public," but with no independent review they have simply left this issue to the court of public opinion.  Going ahead now with no determination of where responsibility lies for, say, the selection process the first time, means that even if there are public contributions this time there will be some suspicion somewhere, and that raises the risk of stepping on the same landmine again.  In the first place, we already have the 1964 Tokyo Olympics logo, so why do we need to re-design a new one?  It has clarity and majesty.  No design could surpass it.  As a two-time Olympic host city its use would show veneration for our ancestors.  Or is it no longer important that we pass on that philosophy?

Yuko Arimori, 1992 and 1996 Olympic marathon medalist; president, Special Olympics Japan
This is a very disappointing start to the buildup toward the Olympics.  It is humiliating that ever since the New National Stadium problem, an endless stream of unthinkable things has happened.  Redoing the National Stadium plans and Olympic logo from zero is already costing a lot of money.  There is no transparency at all to how money is being used or how the organizing committee is operating.  With the general public eating those costs, are they really going to line up and cheer the athletes and enjoy themselves at the Olympics?  Both money and effort should be used in a meaningful way that will promote community and children's sports.  I hope that we can still regain confidence and put on an Olympics that everybody can support.

Takayuki Fujimoto, Associate Professor of Design Theory, Toyo University
Mr. Sano should certainly have withdrawn the logo at a much earlier stage.  In the background of the problem becoming this large was not just the issue of whether there was imitation or plagiarism in his logo design, but the tremendous public scrutiny and suspicion of all his other previous work that it created.  Dealing with the Olympics necessitates absolute spotlessness.  With one after another suspicious cases pointed out online public opinion quickly came to become, "We do not want a dirty logo," which I believe is a sign of general anger over the unending series of problems including the New National Stadium issue.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee Holds Press Conference Regarding Olympic Logo Problem

http://www.nhk.or.jp/shutoken-news/20150901/4592851.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee held a press conference on Sept. 1 to discuss the problems surrounding the Tokyo Olympics logo designed by Kenjiro Sano.  CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters, "We only heard it from Mr. Sano this morning, but the pictures illustrating usage of the logo were created for internal usage by the review committee at the time the design was submitted.  When the design was announced as the official logo it was the rule that permission needed to be obtained from all relevant copyright holders, but this failed to happen.  The explanation given was that this was due to simple carelessness."

Withregard to the strong similarity between Sano's initial draft design for the logo and a poster for an exhibition held in Tokyo several years ago, Muto commented, "Mr. Sano said, 'I make my designs myself, not in imitation of others, and consider them to be original.  As a designer it is not possible to withdraw a design because people say it is an imitation, and for that my family and I have been subjected to constant slander day and night.  It was a dream of mine as a designer to contribute something to the Olympics, but my contribution has now been rejected by the general public.  Given the damage this has done to the image of the Olympics I now feel that I should withdraw my authorship.'"

Muto continued, "This situation has has caused a great deal of worry to all our citizens and in particular to the people of Tokyo, and we apologize sincerely to the government and all other involved parties.  We intend to move forward immediately in the selection of a new logo and to do this in a fundamentally public way.  We will make a decision as soon as possible and hope that the logo is one which is widely supported and loved by the people of Japan as a symbol of the Tokyo Games."

With regard to the reasons for the withdrawal of Sano's logo Muto commented, "We are confident that the claims of similarity to the Belgian logo are incorrect.  New information came to light on Saturday and by Sunday it was evident that the problem could not be ignored, leading to today's decision to withdraw the logo," indicating that the new issues including the unauthorized appropriation of photos used in Sano's Olympic logo usage images were considered the primary grounds for the decision.

Assigning responsibility for the problems equally to the organizing committee, Sano and the review committee, Muto said, "Beyond just assessing the current situation, it is the responsibility of the organizing committee to move forward with creating a new logo.  We understand Mr. Sano's stance that as a designer, 'there has been no plagiarism or imitation.'  We believe that making the decision to withdraw authorship of the logo indicates an acceptance of responsibility.  With regard to the review committee, having recommended Mr. Sano's design as the best among the entries, making the decision that withdrawing the logo was unavoidable is no doubt also a way of taking responsibility."

Regarding the question of whether Japan's international reputation has been damaged, Muto commented, "This logo was intended to be something that would endure, but it has been determined to no longer be suitable.  By creating a new logo we hope to restore that faith."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee to Suspend Use of Designer Sano's Olympic Logo


http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/09/01/kiji/K20150901011046540.html

translated by Brett Larner

Due to the ongoing concerns over the similarity of designer Kenjiro Sano's 2020 Tokyo Olympics official logo to that of a Belgian theater, on Sept. 1 the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee indicated that is will suspend use of the logo.  It is an extremely unusual situation for an Olympic logo to be recalled.  On the afternoon of the 1st representatives of the organizing committee and members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government held an ad hoc meeting to discuss their future course of action.  2020 Tokyo Olympics organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori, Olympic minister Toshiaki Endo, Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe, and JOC chairman Tsunekazu Takeda were expected to attend.

Since the official revealing of Sano's logo design on July 24, along with a lawsuit by Olivier Debie, the designer of the logo for a Belgian theater, claiming plagiarism of his design, other problems have emerged including photos showing how to use Sano's logo having been lifted from other websites and concerns about similarities between the initial design of the logo a portion of a poster from another exhibition.

In addition to the situation involving his Olympic logo, on Aug. 14 Sano issued an apology after a number of designs he had contributed along with other designers to a Suntory Beer promotional campaign were found to have appropriated pre-existing images and designs by others.  Sano claimed that the designs had been done by members of his staff under his supervision and were not his own personal work.

Monday, August 31, 2015

"I Was Afraid" - Japanese Long Distance's World Championships in Its Own Words

translated and edited by Brett Larner
click athletes' names for source articles

Despite the ongoing swell of high-level domestic performances over the last few years, the 2015 World Championships were nearly a complete failure for Japanese long distance.  The lone highlight was 23-year-old women's 5000 m runner Ayuko Suzuki (Team Japan Post Group), who frontran in both the qualifying heat and final on the way to setting an all-time Japanese #5 PB of 15:08.29 for 9th in the final, missing a place on the Rio Olympic team by a fraction of a second.  Her teammate in the final, Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku) and women's marathon 7th-placer Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), who did score a Rio spot for making top 8, earned passing marks, but the rest of the distance team and in particular the men ranged from mediocre to completely unprepared.  The 2015 Beijing World Championships in the words of Japanese distance runners and those responsible for their performances:

Athletes
Masakazu Fujiwara (Honda) - Men's Marathon
PB: 2:08:12 (2003) - all-time Japanese #18
Beijing result: 2:21:06, 21st of 42
My time and place were bad so I have a lot of regret about this race.  I don't really know what happened.  My training went well and I was in good shape, but it just wasn't there.  I wanted to stay with the lead pack, but my legs wouldn't move.  The first half was good, and even when I fell behind I thought I could run people down later, but I just couldn't move.  Even though the pace was slow there was a lot of speeding up and slowing down, and I think I blew most of my energy on that in the first half.  I expected the second half to be hot, but it was cool.  The changes in the pace got more extreme and I just couldn't hold on to them any more.

Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku) - Women's Marathon
PB: 2:24:42 (2015) - all-time Japanese #24
Beijing result: 2:29:48, 7th of 52 - earned place on Rio Olympic team
I exerted myself all the way and achieved my goal.  Basically my plan was to try to hang on until 35 km.  "Be patient until 30 km.  Also after 30 km, patience."  Once the six Africans took off I thought that if the three of us who were left ran together there was a chance we'd be able to retake them from behind.  This is Worlds, so I wanted to make it a race.  I've run a lot of races without winning, and I can't win stages in ekidens either.  I just run steadily and diligently, and finally it has led to the Olympics.

Kazuhiro Maeda (Kyudenko) - Men's Marathon
PB: 2:08:00 (2013) - all-time Japanese #14
Beijing result: 2:32:49, 40th of 42
I couldn't cope.  Around 19 km I got cramps in both legs.  I might have been dehydrated. 

Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) - Women's Marathon
PB: 2:22:48 (2015) - all-time Japanese #8
Beijing result: 2:31:46, 13th of 52
Sorry.  I'm disappointed that I didn't reach my goal of a top 8 finish, but it was a totally great experience to have the chance to be in the World Championships for the first time.  I hope to use that experience in my next race.

Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - Men's 10000 m
PB: 27:39.95 (2015) - all-time Japanese #6
Beijing result: 29:50.22, 22nd of 23
I was kind of overcome by the atmosphere of the venue.  The runners from other countries were like demons.  I don't have enough experience.  I need to get more.

Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - Men's 5000 m
PB: 13:19.62 (2015) - all-time Japanese #8
Beijing result: 14:07.11, 17th of 20 in Heat 2, 32nd of 39 overall
Well, uh, what can I say, I don't know.  I put in the training so I thought it would go alright, but when the pace picked up I was afraid.  Part of me said that if I went with them I would fall apart and drop off.  I'd done the training to handle it but when it was really time for the race I was scared.  I told myself, "Go with them!" but I didn't go.  Maybe it was the people who were around me.  "The people in this heat are pretty damned fast," or something.  I was thinking that it was too many fast people all in one place.  I knew that I had a chance of getting through on time if I went with them, but when we were lining up I couldn't stop thinking, "Do you really think you can hang with these big boys?"  I did what I had to do to get ready for it but when they were actually there in front of me I just froze.  If you just race in Japan then sure, you can be competitive in Japan, but I realized that if you don't get a lot of experience racing overseas you'll never be able to compete here.

Kasumi Nishihara (Yamada Denki) - Women's 10000 m
PB: 31:53.69 (2014)
Beijing Result: 32:12.95, 13th of 24
I wanted it to be a race over the last lap but I couldn't hang on at all.  I was feeling in good shape and my peaking was good too.  I thought I would break my PB, but I couldn't put out a good enough result.

Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) - Women's 10000 m
PB: 31:48.31 (2015)
Beijing result: 32:47.74, 22nd of 24
I could feel a huge difference in ability.  I couldn't follow at all.  I feel disappointed, mostly in my own shortcomings.

Misaki Onishi (Sekisui Kagaku) - Women's 5000 m
PB: 15:16.82 (2015) - all-time Japanese #17
Beijing result: 15:29.63, 14th of 15 in final
The big move came earlier than I was expecting and I was completely unable to handle it.  It made me painfully aware that I'm not there yet.  But, it was a wonderful experience to get to run in front of such big crowds on the last day.

Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) - Men's 5000 m
PB: 13:08.40 (2015) - Japanese national record
Beijing result: 13:45.82, 7th of 19 in Heat 1, 22nd of 39 overall
Everything went as planned up until the end, but I feel like my positioning was wrong on the last lap and that was why I couldn't get into the top places.  Since it was the first heat I expected it to be slow.  I ran it the way I planned, but the people in front of me were dying so it was really hard to move up.  It was really slow.  I wasn't paying attention to time, just kind of thinking, "Feels a little slow."  I kept looking at the person right in front of me the whole time, so I think I was successful in staying calm and coping.  Not being able to move up into the top five in the last part was the only problem this time.

Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya) - Women's Marathon
PB: 2:23:23 (2012) - all-time Japanese #10
Beijing results: 2:32:37, 14th of 52
I knew the race was really going to start after 30 km, but my ability hasn't reached that point yet.  If you want to compete in the Olympics you can never feel confident unless you have something to show for yourself.

Yuta Shitara (Honda) - Men's 10000 m
PB: 27:42.71 (2015) - all-time Japanese #12
Beijing result: 30:08.35 - 23rd of 23
I'm most disappointed that I was totally unable to compete right from the start.  In terms of my physical condition there was no problem, but when the pace picked up suddenly I couldn't go with it.  This was my first World Championships, and I think the different atmosphere here made me nervous going into the race.  I wanted to run my best since I was representing Japan, so right now I'm feeling pretty miserable about it.  I wasted my chance at the World Champs.  I want to start over from zero and re-earn the right to be here.

Azusa Sumi (Universal Entertainment) - Women's 5000 m
PB: 15:17.62 (2015) - all-time Japanese #20
Beijing result: 16:13.65, 11th of 12 in Heat 2, 22nd of 24 overall
I wanted to frontrun as much as I could, but I couldn't keep it together the way I planned.  The level here was completely different.  I couldn't hang on until the end.  I'll never get anywhere like this, so I have to train to get stronger.  I want to do the kind of training that will let me be able to stick with foreign athletes.

Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post Group) - Women's 5000 m
PB: 15:14.96 (2014) - all-time Japanese #12
Beijing result: 15:08.29, 9th of 15 in final - all-time Japanese #5
Just a little more and I would have sealed up Rio.....That's pretty crushing.  But, I gave it everything I had.  I told myself, "Let's bet it all on the last lap," and I ran it 100%.  This represented what I'm capable of right now.  It will take high-quality training for me to get to the next level.

Yuka Takashima (Denso) - Women's 10000 m
PB: 31:37.32 (2015)
Beijing Result: 32:27.79, 20th of 24
The conditions were good.  Not delivering the results means that I'm not good enough.  If you don't become an athlete who can compete internationally, not just inside Japan, it doesn't mean anything.

Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - Men's 10000 m
PB: 27:38.99 (2014) - all-time Japanese #5
Beijing result: 28:25.77, 18th of 23
All I can say is this was really bad.  We were gutless.  I didn't feel strong enough.  I couldn't even begin to be competitive.

Coaches, Bureaucrats, and Commentators
Takeshi Soh, JAAF Director of Marathoning
We had a faint glimmer of hope in our marathoners this time since they were experienced veterans, but they were forced to face cold reality.  I felt the difference in ability between Japan and the rest of the world profoundly.  We have to put our hopes in our young athletes.  If our young athletes take on the marathon when they are still young and full of momentum, and if we can select athletes who can perform in heat, then I think we have a chance.  With our current marathoners it is hopeless.

Kazuyoshi Tokumoto, head coach, Surugadai University ekiden team, 2003-2004 5000 m national champion
I don't know if that was really what Soh meant, but hey, you're the one in charge of development and selection, bro!  The top people shouldn't be making comments against the athletes!

Manabu Kawagoe, head coach, Edion corporate team, coach of 2009 World Championships marathon top Japanese woman Yuri Kano and others
That Soh article is very, very regrettable!  Age has nothing to do with it.  What do you say about the fact that the 4th-place runner was 41?   And who exactly was responsible for team selection and development, sir?  I look forward to seeing Fujiwara and Maeda make a full comeback from this.

Toshihiko Seko, JAAF executive board member and head coach, DeNA corporate team
It was pretty sad to see our marathoners falling off at 20 km in such a slow race.  There were a lot of people who survived who aren't nearly as good as Fujiwara and Maeda.  I don't think the fact that they fell behind at halfway means they were too weak, but nevertheless they were beaten without a fight.

This was a red light for Rio, and at this rate it's going to be too late for Tokyo 2020 as well.  It takes three years to transition from the track to being used to the marathon.  The JAAF has to encourage our young runners who are doing the 10000 m and ekidens now to enthusiastically take the plunge into the marathon.  If we don't catch our track runners from these Championships, Osako, the Murayamas, the Shitaras, right after the race and persuade them to start marathoning then they won't make it.  But the JAAF also needs to improve its development methods.

Yasuhiro Harada, JAAF Development Committee Chariman
We take this failure very seriously and have upset many fans.  We are very sorry and will continue to re-evaluate the development committee's future strategy.  There is no question that we must perform an orbit correction on the trip to Rio.

Yuko Arimori, 1992 and 1996 Olympic marathon medalist, Special Olympics Japan president and JAAF executive
The women's marathon went out slow, so the Japanese women did most of the leading.  The Africans just followed along indifferently, saving their strength, and, as usual, between 30 and 35 km they sped up and ran away.  Our runners couldn't respond at all and just hung on with what they had left to try to take one of the last few places in the top 8.

This is hardly the first time a race has played out this way.  The Ethiopian Roba won the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and then the 1999 Boston Marathon, and that was when African women began to excel and show their dominance in more and more races.  Am I the only one who thinks that this race pattern hasn't changed at all since then?

In the 15 or 16 years since then our athletes, head coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, everybody, kept saying, "This is pointless!  How can we compete?"  They very seriously thought, talked to people, found things that hadn't been taken care of yet, kept doing it over and over until they could overcome their weak points, all while training hard.  The main focus was the questions, "How can we compete?" "How can we win?"  And then Hiromi Suzuki won the World Championships and Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchi won the Olympics.  There were Africans in those races, of course.

So, once again, we should look back on the fact that we had that era and think, "How, why, were we able to do it?"  Physically and mentally.  The administration and coaches need to seriously discuss this.  That includes the selection process.

So, this time, 7th place.  To borrow words from the way they used to say it at the JAAF, the "lower podium."  That was the phrase they used when they were talking about their goals for Japan's women marathoners at the 1991 Tokyo World Championships.  I have to ask the people in charge who give out Olympic team spots now for that kind of placing whether they're comfortable seeing those athletes standing in front of the Japanese flag smiling and giving the peace sign, and whether they think this is really the right way.

Fujiwara and Okada Win Hokkaido Marathon (updated with video)

by Brett Larner



His career marked by more ups and downs than virtually any other elite marathoner, London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) pulled yet another surprise comeback out of nowhere on a week's notice to win the hot and humid Hokkaido Marathon in Sapporo on Sunday.  One of only five Japanese men to ever win a marathon outside Japan under 2:10, after a mid-race surge Fujiwara's strategy evoked his course record-setting 2010 Ottawa Marathon win, waiting until the final km before going for a long surge over a group of five including his training partner and 2010 Hokkaido winner Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Arata Project), 2015 Nagano Marathon runner-up Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) and others.  Fujiwara crossed the finish line to claim his second career marathon victory in 2:16:49, one of the slower winning times in recent Hokkaido history but a full 11 seconds over Njui in the final kilometer.

Njui held off Tanigawa, who previously felt the sting of Fujiwara's finishing speed at the 2013 Great North Run half marathon in the U.K., by 3 seconds, 2:17:00 to 2:17:03 with 4th-placer Hideaki Tamura (Team JR Higashi Nihon) just behind in 2:17:04.  Maybe the only negative from Fujiwara's perspective: earlier the same morning his indie rival Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) won Australia's Perth City to Surf Marathon in a slightly faster time of 2:16:23.  With a successful marathon behind him Fujiwara now turns his focus to the corporate federation's ~$1 million bonus for a new Japanese national record.

The women's race was clearer-cut, with Yui Okada (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), a training partner of Mai Ito who simultaneously took 7th in the Beijing World Championships women's marathon, easily winning her debut in 2:32:10.  Having made a return to marathoning at March's Seoul International Marathon following her two-year suspension for a positive EPO test at the 2012 Honolulu Marathon, 2006 Hokkaido winner Kaori Yoshida (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) was just over a minute behind in 2:33:14, showing few signs of aging at just 21 seconds off her 2006 winning time.  Corporate leaguer Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) was a close 3rd behind Yoshida in 2:33:20.

Hokkaido Marathon
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 8/30/15 
click here for complete results

Men
1. Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) - 2:16:49
2. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Arata Project) - 2:17:00
3. Tomohiro Tanigawa (Konica Minolta) - 2:17:03
4. Hideaki Tamura (JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:17:04
5. Yuji Iwata (Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 2:17:29
6. Akinori Iida (Honda) - 2:18:22
7. Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business Service) - 2:18:22
8. Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:18:56
9. Yuya Ito (Toyota) - 2:18:58
10. Akiyuki Iwanaga (Kyudenko) - 2:19:12
11. Teppei Suegami (YKK) - 2:19:25
12. Kenta Chiba (Fujitsu) - 2:19:33
13. Yu Chiba (Honda) - 2:20:48
-----
DNF - Ryosuke Fukuyama (Honda)

Women
1. Yui Okada (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:10
2. Kaori Yoshida (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:33:14
3. Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 2:33:20
4. Asami Furuse (Kyocera) - 2:34:12
5. Aki Odagiri (Tenmaya) - 2:35:01
6. Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:35:23
7. Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:36:35
8. Yukiko Okuno (Shiseido) - 2:36:46
9. Kana Orino (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:38:02
10. Maya Nishio (Hokuren) - 2:39:05

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beijing World Championships Day Nine - Japanese Results

Beijing, China, 8/30/15
click here for complete results

Women's 5000 m Final
1. Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia) - 14:26.83 - MR
2. Senbere Teferi (Ethiopia) - 14:44.07
3. Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 14:44.14
4. Viola Jelagat Kibiwot (Kenya) - 14:46.16
5. Mercy Cherono (Kenya) - 15:01.36
6. Janet Kisa (Kenya) - 15:02.68
7. Irene Chepet Cheptai (Kenya) - 15:03.41
8. Susan Kuijken (Netherlands) - 15:08.00
9. Ayuko Suzuki (Japan) - 15:08.29 - PB - all-time Japanese #5
10. Eloise Wellings (Australia) - 15:09.62
-----
14. Misaki Onishi (Japan) - 15:29.63

Beijing World Championships Women's Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

In a sight already familiar from the women's 5000 m heats and 10000 m final, the Japanese women ran up front together through most of the Beijing World Championships women's marathon, the slow early pace and low-hanging fruit of the JAAF's promise of a place on the Rio Olympic team to the first of them to make the top 8 combining to ensure they stayed near the front until things really got moving.  Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) was the first Japanese woman to go to the lead, joined in short order by domestic favorite Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu) and the controversial Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya).  Apart from periodic surges at water stations by Mare Dibaba and other members of the Ethiopian team the Japanese trio led until well into the second half tailed all the while by rival Hye-Song Kim (North Korea).

Shigetomo, again followed by Kim, made the first real effort to get the pace moving faster after halfway, killing off the European members of the lead pack and sending Ito and Maeda to the back row.  Ito slipped a few meters behind and appeared to be in trouble, but on the uphill of an overpass it was Maeda who first really lost touch with the leaders.  A surge from 2014 Asian Games champion and 2015 Nagoya Women's Marathon winner Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) dropped all the non-African-born contenders, leaving six up front with Ito leading a chase group of five.

Up front it came down a sprint finish with Dibaba taking gold in 2:27:35 a stride ahead of Helah Kiprop (Kenya), Kirwa consigned to bronze in 2:27:39.  Further back, Ito pulled away from Kim and the others in pursuit of Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia), a straggler from the lead group, but could not close the gap.  7th in 2:29:48, she nevertheless cleared the JAAF's requirements and scored herself a place on the Rio Olympic team, along with men's 50 km racewalk bronze medalist Takayuki Tanii one of only two Japanese athletes to do it in Beijing.  Maeda overtook Shigetomo late in the race, 13th in 2:31:46 with Shigetomo 14th in 2:32:37.

The sight of the entire Japanese women's team frontrunning made for good TV for the home crowd and played to memories of the golden years, but ultimately the results were only passable.  In some events, say the men's 200 m or women's 5000 m, a top 8 finish by a Japanese athlete would be meaningful, but in the women's marathon where Japanese athletes have made the top 8 at every World Championships except 1983, 1987 and 1995, it was a virtual handout.  With the remaining two places on the Rio team to be settled between three domestic selection races the assigning of one place now leaves plenty of room for the same kind of chicanery that saw Shigetomo named to the Beijing team over Yokohama selection race winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei).  The wisdom of this process and whether Japanese women will prove relevant in Rio either way remain to be seen a year from now.

15th IAAF World Championships Women's Marathon
Beijing, China, 8/30/15
click here for complete results

1. Mare Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:27:35
2. Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:27:36
3. Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:27:39
4. Jemima Sumgong (Kenya) - 2:27:42
5. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:28:18
6. Tigist Tufa (Ethiopia) - 2:29:12
7. Mai Ito (Japan) - 2:29:48
8. Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) - 2:30:54
9. Hye-Song Kim (North Korea) - 2:30:59
10. Serena Burla (U.S.A.) - 2:31:06
-----
13. Sairi Maeda (Japan) - 2:31:46
14. Risa Shigetomo (Japan) - 2:32:37

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved