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Strong New York Ties in Yokohama and Ageo as Moscow WC Campaign Kicks Off - Preview

by Brett Larner
photo by Mika Tokairin

The Japanese campaign for places on the 2013 Moscow World Championships marathon team kicks off this Sunday in Yokohama at the fourth running of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, followed two weeks later by the Fukuoka International Marathon.  With Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) running 2:23:23 to win January's Osaka International Women's Marathon and Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) running 2:07:48 for 2nd in Tokyo in February the Federation decided to enact strict standards for the Moscow team: sub-2:24 for women and sub-2:08 for men at any of the designated domestic selection races or the World Marathon Majors.  Considering that both Shigetomo and Fujiwara made it into the all-time Japanese top ten it seems like a pretty tall order to imagine Japan being able to field full five-member teams of that caliber next summer, but that's where the powers that be set the hoop and people are lining up to jump.  With favorable weather conditions forecast after rain on Saturday night they may well get there.  The race will be broadcast live on TV Asahi starting at noon Japan time.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch online via the sometimes reliable Keyhole TV.

Four Japanese women look like candidates for a position.  2011 Osaka International Marathon winner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and the promising Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) are closest, both with bests under 2:24:30.  Akaba, with a series of small PBs taking her down to 2:24:09, had originally planned to retire following the London Olympics, but after her shot at making the London team in Nagoya in March went poorly she regrouped and is forging on.  Nakazato has fewer credentials but possibly more headroom, currently only 29 seconds off the target time.  In Nagoya she was only 3rd but beat Akaba and both of Yokohama's other two major Japanese contenders.  Having also finished 2nd in Yokohama in 2011 her experience on its course should play in her favor.  2012 Sapporo Half Marathon winner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) is another candidate, an aggressive racer who has looked ready for a breakthrough on more than occasion.  Despite having the slowest PB of the four favorites, 2:25:38 run while winning the extremely windy 2009 Tokyo Marathon, Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) may be the best bet, with a very strong performance at the East Japan Corporate Ekiden earlier this month and reportedly outstanding training in the U.S., including a marathon win, behind her.

Despite the loss of two of its original entries, the foreign field looks well-positioned to push the women on to the 2:23 time goal after the addition of five transplants from the cancelled ING New York City Marathon.  Kenyan Lydia Cheromei has the fastest time in the field by a wide margin, 2:21:30, but coming off injury setbacks she is likely to run at the same level as the Japanese leaders.  2005 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) is next with a 2:22:56 best, but not having run under 2:25 in almost eight years she may not be in position to contend at the race's expected level.  Marisa Barros (Portugal) set her best of 2:25:04 while finishing 3rd behind Nakazato and 2:23:56 course record-setting Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) at the second edition of Yokohama and should be in the picture.  New York transfer Kim Smith (New Zealand) rounds out those most likely to be up front, like Ito an aggressive racer who has not quite managed to put together a perfect marathon yet.  If she does, look for her to have a shot at the overall win.

Along with Yokohama welcoming five women from New York and Fukuoka likewise taking five men, New York Road Runners elite athlete manager Sam Grotewold will be in Japan over the weekend to attend to the 25th running of the Ageo City Half Marathon, where the top two Japanese collegiate men will receive invites to next year's New York City Half Marathon.  Last year's top Ageo Japanese men Yuta Shitara and Kento Otsu of 2012 Hakone Ekiden course record setters Toyo University ran this year's New York City Half, Shitara running 1:01:48 to set the fastest mark ever by a Japanese man on American soil.  JRN is facilitating the new relationship between the two races.

Other major action over the busy weekend includes the Nittai University Time Trials on both Saturday and Sunday featuring a large number of top pro, college and high school talent, four corporate men's regional qualifiers for the New Year Ekiden national championships, the Biwako University Ekiden championship for central and western Japan schools, and, overseas, the Netherlands' Seven Hills Loop road race where for the second year members of the Meijo University women's team will compete.

2012 Yokohama International Women's Marathon Elite Field
Yokohama, 11/18/2012
click here for complete field listing

1. Lydia Cheromei (Kenya) - 2:21:30
21. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:22:56
11. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:24:09
12. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 2:24:28
3. Marisa Barros (Portugal) - 2:25:04
4. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:25:15
22. Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 2:25:21
13. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:25:26
16. Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:25:38
14. Noriko Matsuoka (Second Wind AC) - 2:26:54
23. Amy Hastings (U.S.A.) - 2:27:03
6. Kateryne Stetsenko (Ukraine) - 2:27:51
15. Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto) - 2:28:19
7. Joanne Pavey (U.K.) - 2:28:24
24. Serena Bulra (U.S.A.) - 2:28:27
25. Adriana Nelson (U.S.A.) - 2:28:52
32. Yumi Hirata (Second Wind AC) - 2:29:23
17. Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 2:29:25
19. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:29:36
18. Kaori Yoshida (Puma RC) - 2:29:45
34. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:32:20
31. Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) - 2:32:27
33. Ayumi Sakaida (Team Daihatsu) - 2:36:04
104. Tilahun Alemaz (Ethiopia)
105. Alemayhu Selamawit (Ethiopia)

86. Asami Kato (Team Panasonic)
87. Nanami Matsuura (Team Tenmaya)
88. Maria Konovalova (Russia)
89. Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine)

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photo (c) 2011 Mika Tokairin
all rights reserved


Anonymous said…
Brett , do you know if there will be an online stream for americans to watch? Thanks
Brett Larner said…
As I mentioned, it should be possible to watch the TV Asahi broadcast of Yokohama via Keyhole TV. It's often not great quality but is usually at least serviceable. Not sure what may be available beyond that. There's no broadcast of Ageo unfortunately, although both Nihon TV and TV Asahi will have cameras there shooting footage.

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