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World Leads and a Strong Run from Kiryu at Oda Memorial, Plus a National Record

by Brett Larner
videos by okukon

With the Tuesday national holiday making it something of a perforated long weekend it was a busy one on the Japanese track circuit with a national record and a handful of world-leading performances.

Decathlon national record holder Keisuke Ushiro (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) topped the list with a new national record at the decathlon National Championships on the 26th and 27th in Wakayama.  On track to break his old record by more than 100 points at the end of the first day, Ushiro continued strong the second day.  With a solid 1500 m announcers predicted 8300 could be in range, but with just a 4:45:53 Ushiro came in with a breakable new record of 8143 that put him 4th in the world so far this season and left him the potential for more.

Shortly after Ushiro's record, relative unknown Bernard Kimani (Kenya/Team Yakult) brought the first world-leading mark of the weekend with a 13:18.92 to win the Nittai University Time Trials 5000 m A-heat, a quick heat that saw three Japanese collegiates, Ken Yokote and Shuho Dairokuno of Meiji University and Hikaru Kato of hosts Nittai go under 13:50 for the first time.

Kimani's world lead lasted only 48 hours before it went down at the Tuesday holiday's biggest event, the 48th Oda Memorial Meet.  James Mwangi (Kenya/Team NTN) raced Berlin World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Paul Tanui (Kenya/ Team Kyudenko) throughout the Grand Prix 5000 m, pulling away at the end to clear Kimani's time and get the win in a new world-leader of 13:18.35 to Tanui's 13:19.88.  Tanui's teammate, 2014 World Half Marathon Championships bronze medalist Sally Chepyego Kaptich (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) had an easy win in the women's 5000 m in 15:15.80, top-ranked Japanese Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki) running down Kenyans Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) and Pauline Kamulu (Team Toto) for 2nd in 15:31.28.

Returning to the meet where he last year ran the 10.01 that made him famous, teen sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) generated a large amount of buzz early on at the Oda Memorial Meet when he ran 10.10 (+2.0) to win his heat.  With Kiryu looking under control and his London Olympics teammates Kei Takase (Team Fujitsu), 10.14 (+2.6), and Ryota Yamagata (Keio Univ.), 10.19 (+2.4), also qualifying there was great excitement about what Kiryu might do in the final, but with ten minutes to go it was announced that he had scratched with no immediate word on his situation.  Takase stepped up with a 10.13 (+0.7) PB for the win, earning himself a place in the all-time Japanese top ten.

The biggest surprise of the meet came in the men's javelin, where 22-year-old Ryohei Arai (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), a junior training partner of Berlin World Championships bronze medalist Yukifumi Murakami (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), threw a series of massive PBs to take the win and the top position in the world. Coming in to the meet with a best of 78.21 from when he was 19, Arai threw a world-leading PB of 84.06 on his second throw.  His third throw was even better, a massive 85.48 that put him well ahead of the rest of the competition at the meet, well clear into the #1 position in the world so far this year, and within sight of the national record.  He cleared 82 on his next throw but the 85.48 was enough to secure him the win and establish him as another potential new star in the thriving Japanese athletics world.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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