Skip to main content

Loaded Dice - International Chiba Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2009 International Chiba Ekiden takes place on Monday, Nov. 23. As economic times have continued to grow harder Japan's once-thriving international ekiden circuit has dwindled dramatically. When the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden took a bow in February this year it left Chiba as the lone representative of the format, and even it was scaled back in 2007 from separate men's and women's races to a single, six-stage 42.195 km race featuring mixed men's and women's teams. This wasn't necessarily a bad move, the mixed teams having proved to be popular and interesting.

Being the host country, Japan has tended to stack the deck in recent years. This year is no exception as the Japanese national team far outweighs any other in star power: men's half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and women's 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), 2009 men's 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B), 2009 women's 10000 m national champion Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), 2009 women's 5000 m national champion Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), Olympian and, as a university runner, 13:19 5000 m man Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) and the lesser-known Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) and Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku). With two official alternates in the lineup it has become traditional for the two senior members not to run, but even without Sato and Akaba the Japanese team will be tough to challenge.

It goes without saying that the Kenyan team should be their strongest competition, but the relatively junior squad features only two well-known runners: marathon legend Catherine Ndereba and 2009 World Championships men's marathon champion Abel Kirui. Ndereba is a perpetual presence in Chiba, but fresh from last Sunday's Yokohama International Women's Marathon she seems unlikely to run or to factor in the action if she does. Kirui, on the other hand, should be one of Kenya's biggest weapons. His presence in Japan for the race strongly suggests he will headline the as-yet unannounced Fukuoka International Marathon field on Dec. 6. Whether the pair can rally the Kenyans to stay ahead of the hosts is a good question: a similar team in 2007 could not top the all-star Japanese lineup.

The Russians are always a factor in Chiba, and their team this year features ekiden regulars and 2009 national champions Maria Konovalova and Evgeny Rybakov. Rybakov's identical twin Anatoly will also be a solid component. Canada, the United States and Australia also have excellent teams lined up, the latter headlined by the return of 12:55 5000 m man Craig Mottram.

The best contender for 3rd, however, may be the Japanese University Select Team. Like the national team, the select team is stacked with top talent: Hakone Ekiden star Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.), women's university 10000 m national champion and unbeaten ekiden ace Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.), and three members of #1-ranked women's team Bukkyo University including 2009 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist and 5000 m silver medalist Kasumi Nishihara.

Even the team representing hosts Chiba Prefecture is full of the first-rate, including 2009 and 2007 Tokyo Marathon winners Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Universal Entertainment) and Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidosoki) and Niiya's teammate on national champions Toyota Jidoshoki Aya Nagata.

Other notable individuals in the field include 2008 Beijing Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Constantina Dita (Romania), like Ndereba and Kirui likely on the airfare-economizing tip following her Yokohama International Women's Marathon run, and 2004 Athens Olympics men's marathon gold medalist Stefano Baldini (Italy).

The 2009 International Chiba Ekiden will be broadcast live on Fuji TV from 1:00 p.m. to 3:25 p.m. Japan time on Nov. 23. International viewers should be able to watch online for free using the Keyhole TV software available here. JRN will be offering live English commentary on the broadcast -- check back for more details. Click here for a complete entry list. For a course map click here.

2009 International Chiba Ekiden - Team Entries
Japan
Japanese University Select Team
Chiba Prefecture
Australia
Belarus
Canada
China
Finland
Italy
Kenya
Poland
Romania
Russia
Sweden
U.S.A.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Simon said…
Brett - Why is it traditional for the two senior members of Japan's team to not run? I could understand giving an upcoming runner a shot but why put oneself up for selection in the first place if there's no real intention of racing?
Brett Larner said…
Not sure why, but that's how it's been the last few years. They enter 4 men and 4 women for a 3/3 team and the oldest, most well-known among them tend not to run, just to show 'leadership' and mentor the younger runners.
shibuyaboy said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
shibuyaboy said…
I don't quite understand how the team system works, but did Team Aruze change their name to Universal Entertainment? Or did 那須川瑞穂 change teams?

Most-Read This Week

Former Coach Koide on Hara's Arrest: "She Was Really F*cking Serious"

A World Championships marathoner was arrested for shoplifting. On Aug. 17 The Tochigi Prefectural Police Ashikaga Department arrested temp worker Yumiko Hara, 35, on suspicion of stealing skin lotion and other items from a convenience store.

Yoshio Koide, Hara's former coach at the Universal Entertainment corporate team and head of the Saku Athlete Club, was surprised by the events. "She trained harder than anybody," Koide said. "She never missed training, and she was really f*cking serious. I think there must have been a reason for her to commit shoplifting, but she was always a normal kind of girl who would say, "Yes!" when you told her to do something. When she retired she said, 'I've done what I could but I just can't run the way I want to.' I haven't spoken to her since she quit, but it's very unfortunate news and I can't understand it."

source article:https://www.nikkansports.com/general/nikkan/news/1873808.html
translat…

World Championships Marathoner Yumiko Hara Arrested for Shoplifting Cosmetics

Former World Championships marathoner Yumiko Hara, 35, was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting cosmetics and other goods. A resident of Ashikaga, Tochigi, Hara is suspected of shoplifting eight items including cosmetics and soft drinks with a total value of 2700 yen [~$25 USD] from a local convenience store on July 30. According to police, a clerk performing a store inventory found that the item totals did not match. When police reviewed security camera footage they identified Hara as a suspect.

Hara represented Japan at two World Championships, finishing 6th in the marathon at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships. During her interrogation Hara admitted her guilt in the charges, saying that there was "no mistake."
Translator's note: Along with the 2005 Helsinki World Championships and 2007 Osaka World Championships, Hara represented Japan at the 2003 Vilamoura World Half Marathon Championships. She was the winner of both the 2007 Osaka International Women's Maratho…

Kobayashi Wins London Bronze Without Hakone Experience While Hakone Veteran Kawauchi Fails to Make Top 8

The World Championships in athletics were first held in Helsinki, Finland in 1983. Up until the 1991 Tokyo World Championships they were held once every four years, but beginning with the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships they switched to an every other year format. London this year was the 16th edition. To date 68 men with Hakone Ekiden experience have competed in the World Championships, with three of them winning medals in the marathon.

In Tokyo in 1991 Hiromi Taniguchi became the first Japanese World Championships gold medalist, raising the excitement level at the games.  As a student at Nittai University Taniguchi had won the Hakone Ekiden's downhill Sixth Stage three years in a row from 1981 to 1983. As a fourth-year in 1983 he set a new stage record of 57:47. Course changes have rendered his record an historical artifact, but Taniguchi is still considered Hakone's greatest downhill runner.

At the 1999 Seville World Championships and 2005 Helsinki World Championships, …