by Brett Larner
Update: Half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) has withdrawn with an injury to his left thigh. Invited athlete Satoshi Yoshii (Team Sumco) withdrew earlier in the week.
Note for Canadian readers: My ability to cover Dylan and Steve live will be pretty limited, but I'll do what I can.
Official Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon course preview video.
This Sunday's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon is the last chance for Japanese men to make the London Olympics marathon team. With strong times of 2:07:48 and 2:08:38 from the top two Japanese men at last weekend's Tokyo Marathon and good conditions in the forecast we should see the top Japanese contenders gunning for Kazuhiro Maeda's 2:08:38 Tokyo mark to have a shot at picking up an Olympic ticket. If two of them do it Maeda will likely be left on the sidelines come August.
Biwako, as the race is universally known in Japan, will be broadcast live and commercial-free nationwide on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m. Japan time on Mar. 4, with the race starting at 12:30. Overseas viewers should be able to watch live online for free via Keyhole TV with the password NHK, and JRN will again offer live English coverage via Twitter @JRNLive. NHK's race website is also worth following for updates.
The small international field is well-positioned to pull the best Japanese men along, with 2:06 Kenyan Nicholas Manza, 2:07 Ethiopian Bekana Daba, 2:08 Moroccan Abdellah Taghrafet and Japan based Kenyans Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Samuel Ndungu (Team Aichi Seiko) on the list. A second tier of overseas runners will also be shooting for their countries' Olympic-qualifying marks, including Spanish track runner Ayad Lamdassem, 2:09 runners Henryk Szost (Poland), Abdellatif Meftah (France), Lee Troop (Australia) and Ruggero Pertile (Italy), Kenyan Ernest Kebenei and Ethiopian Yohanis Abera, and Canadians Dylan Wykes and Steve Osaduik.
The clear favorite among the Japanese entrants is Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei), the top Japanese man at both last year's Biwako and at the Daegu World Championships marathon. Horibata's coach Takeshi Soh has said he believes Horibata capable of breaking the Japanese national record of 2:06:16, and Horibata is reportedly in outstanding condition. He should be the man to beat among the Japanese.
With the withdrawal of half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) Horibata's most likely competition for an Olympic spot may come from two men. The second man at last year's Biwako, Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki), had a solid run in the Daegu World Championships and has steadily PB'd every year in the marathon since his debut. He has said he thinks he can run 2:08, and he now has the added motivation of joining his Takushoku University-era teammate Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.), the top Japanese man in Tokyo, on the London team. Former Hakone Ekiden superstar Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) has also had a steady progression of marathon bests since his debut and will be trying again to make the Olympic team after being cracked by Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) at December's Fukuoka International Marathon. Imai hopes to run the Olympics in honor of both his former training partner Samuel Wanjiru and the people in his Fukushima hometown lost in last year's disasters.
Other solid contenders include 2010 Asian Games marathon silver medalist Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) and Yuko Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta), the twin brother of 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) who set a PB of 2:09:28 in Tokyo. A considerable number of top-caliber people are also making their marathon debuts, among them 61-minute half-marathoners Takanobu Otsubo (Osaka Police Dept.), Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda), 3000 mSC national record holder Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu), 2009 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Shota Hiraga (Waseda Univ.), and 2012 Hakone Ekiden Second Stage winner Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.). Click here for JRN's pre-debut interview with Deki and his coach Susumu Hara.
Along with this solid crop of debutants, a deep stratum of 2:11-2:13 men and a host of accomplished late-career veterans means that there is no shortage of possible wildcards in the race. The top Japanese man will almost certainly come from among Horibata, Nakamoto or Imai, but with Maeda's 2:08:38 dangling before them the question of who could steal the third Olympic spot away from Maeda like Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) did from Fujiwara before Beijing is much harder to answer. We'll know soon enough.
2012 Biwako Mainichi Marathon Elite Field & General Division Highlights
Mar. 4, Otsu
click here for complete field listing
1. Nicholas Manza (Kenya) - 2:06:34
2. Bekana Daba (Ethiopia) - 2:07:04
3. Abdellah Taghrafet (Morocco) - 2:08:21
4. Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:09:39
5. Abdellatif Meftah (France) - 2:09:46
6. Lee Troop (Australia) - 2:09:49
7. Ruggero Pertile (Italy) - 2:09:53
8. Ernest Kebenei (Kenya) - 2:10:55
31. Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:25
32. Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:09:31
33. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:43
34. Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 2:10:32
36. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 2:10:51
37. Naoto Yoneda (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:11:00
38. Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) - 2:11:17
101. Yohanis Abera (Ethiopia) - 2:11:08
102. Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda) - 2:12:05
103. Dylan Wykes (Canada) - 2:12:39
104. Etsu Miyata (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:19
105. Masayuki Obata (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:13:54
106. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:13:54
107. Yusuke Kataoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:12:28
112. Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) - 2:12:21
117. Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:11:25
119. Takeshi Hamano (Team Toyota) - 2:09:18
120. Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:12:10
121. Toyoshi Ishige (Team Yakult) - 2:12:45
122. Shinichi Watanabe (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:09:32
124. Yuko Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:09:18
127. Steve Osaduik (Canada) - 2:16:49
134. Masatoshi Oike (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:12:15
147. Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:54
172. Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:12:37
273. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:55 (half-marathon)
274. Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:01:57 (half-marathon)
275. Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda) - 1:01:58 (half-marathon)
276. Shota Hiraga (Waseda University) - 1:02:08 (half-marathon)
277. Hiroshi Yamada (Team Konica-Minolta) - 1:02:31 (half-marathon)
279. Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) - 1:02:23 (half-marathon)
282. Takanobu Otsubo (Osaka Police Dept.) - 1:01:55 (half-marathon)
283. Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:08:37
286. Daisuke Matsufuji (Team Kanebo) - 1:02:47 (half-marathon)
288. Gideon Ngatuny (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 59:50 (half-marathon)
294. Masahiro Kuno (Team NTN) - 1:02:49 (half-marathon)
352. Shingo Mishima (Team Toyota) - 1:30:45 (30 km)
357. Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 58:51 (20 km)
362. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) - 27:45.58 (10000 m)
363. Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu) - 28:17.80 (10000 m)
364. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Tokai Univ.) - 28:41.26 (10000 m)
365. Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 1:02:03 (half-marathon)
367. Kosaku Hoshina (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:20.36 (10000 m)
51. Isaac Macharia (Kenya)
52. Boniface Kirui (Kenya)
53. James Mwangi (Kenya)
54. Yohei Yamamoto (Team NTT Nishi Nihon)
55. Ryosuke Maki (Team Osaka Gas)
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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