Sunday, August 28, 2016

Kiname and Yoshida Win 30th Hokkaido Marathon

by Brett Larner

Biding his time in a race of surges, 25-year-old Ryo Kiname (Team Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) emerged from the pack with a surge over the last 5 km to win the 30th anniversary Hokkaido Marathon in 2:13:16.  With only two people ever having won Hokkaido sub-2:12 the large pack went through halfway in 1:05:51 before the first move came.  Scheduled to run Chicago in six weeks' time, Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) went ahead of the pack after the halfway mark, pursued by 2010 Hokkaido winner Cyrus Njui (Kenya/SEV Sports) and the Koichi Morishita-coached Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu).  By 30 km they had brought Matsuo back into the fold just in time for the next move to come from an unlikely source, 22-year-old Kaito Koitabashi (Team Konica Minolta) with a PB of just 2:32:01.  The debuting Takafumi Kikuchi (Team SGH Group) ran Koitabashi down with Njui and Kiname just behind, and the stage was set for the race over the last 5 km.

Kiname was the strongest, dropping Njui and the other two Japanese men, his 2:13:16 win the fastest time in Hokkaido since 2010.  The winner that year, Njui was next across the line for the second year in a row in 2:14:38.  Last year his result was annulled after he tested positive for an ingredient in cold medicine he had taken before the race.  With any luck his result this year will stand. Koitabashi and Kikuchi stayed together until the last straight, Koitabashi improbably pulling away for 3rd in 2:15:02, a PB by 17 minutes and faster than the last two years' winning times.

2006 Hokkaido women's winner Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), back last year from a two-year suspension as Japan's sole public EPO positive, accurately gauged rival Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) to win the women's race in 2:32:33.  Accompanied by 2014 Kitakyushu Marathon winner Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) through 15 km, Yoshida and Mizuguchi ran together on sub-2:30 pace until just before halfway when Yoshida began to slow.  Staying on track for sub-2:30, by 30 km Mizuguchi had a lead of 50 seconds.  But over the next 10 km it proved too much, Yoshida closing the gap by 10 seconds by 35 km and then overtaking Mizuguchi just before 40 km.  Yoshida sailed on unchallenged for the win, her time just bettering her 2:32:53 win exactly ten years ago.  Mizuguchi was over a minute back in 2:33:45 for 2nd, with Takemoto a distant 3rd in 2:36:41.

30th Hokkaido Marathon
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 8/28/16
unofficial times; official results coming shortly

Men
1. Ryo Kiname (Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 2:13:16
2. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/SEV Sports) - 2:14:38
3. Kaito Koitabashi (Konica Minolta) - 2:15:02 - PB
4. Takafumi Kikuchi (SGH Group) - 2:15:06 - debut
5. Masanori Sakai (Kyudenko) - 2:15:19
6. Yuji Murota (JFE Steel) - 2:15:40 - PB
7. Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 2:15:52
8. Takuya Suzuki (Aisan Kogyo) - 2:16:19
9. Jo Fukuda (Nishitetsu) - 2:16:29 - PB
10. Ryo Yamamoto (SGH Group) - 2:17:08

Women
1. Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 2:32:33
2. Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 2:33:45
3. Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:36:41
4. Ayako Mitsui (Uniqlo) - 2:39:55
5. Aki Otagiri (Tenmaya) - 2:41:52

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ome 30 km to Add Public Prize Money for Men's and Women's Winners

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20160823-OHT1T50025.html

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Ome 30 km Road Race announced this week that they will award prize money to the overall men's and women's winners at next year's 51st running on Feb. 19.  First place in both the men's and women's races will receive 500,000 yen [~$5000 USD].  Prize money is open to all entrants in the 30 km race.

The 5,000,000 yen course record purse announced for last year's 50th running remains in place.  Breaking either official course record, 1:30:21 for men and 1:39:09 for women, will earn 2,000,000 yen [~$20,000 USD].  Breaking Toshihiko Seko's 1:29:32 unofficial course record from 1981 will earn an additional 1,000,000 yen [~$10,000 USD].  The course record bonuses are only available to JAAF-registered Japanese citizens.

30th Anniversary Hokkaido Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

Always the signal that the fall marathon season is about to begin, the Hokkaido Marathon celebrates its 30th anniversary running this Sunday. The men's field features Masanori Sakai (Team Kyudenko), a 2:09:10 performer at the 2014 Tokyo Marathon but with little success since then, and Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group), a member of the 2012 London Olympics marathon squad with a 2:08:37 best from 2012. An interesting dark horse is the Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Koichi Morishita-coached 2:13 man Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu), winner of February's tough Ome 30 km and 2nd at last month's Shibetsu Half Marathon.  Something of an eyebrow raiser is Kenyan Cyrus Njui (SEV Sports), who underwent a six-month suspension after testing positive at last year's Hokkaido Marathon when he took cold medicine from a local pharmacist a few days before the race.  In today's environment it's hard to imagine many races inviting back someone who tested positive at the same race a year earlier, but Hokkaido's policy seems to be forgive and forget.

Underlining that policy is the number one seed in the women's race, Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), Japan's sole public EPO bust after testing positive at the 2012 Honolulu Marathon.  The 2006 Hokkaido winner, Yoshida returned from her suspension stronger than ever, running a PB of 2:28:43 at last fall's inaugural Saitama International Marathon that positions her as the only sub-2:30 woman in the field.  Her best domestic competition is Aki Otagiri (Team Tenmaya) with a 2:30:24 best at last year's Nagoya Women's Marathon.  Japan-based Kenyan Winfridah Kebaso (Team Nitori) also looks to have potential to improve on her 2:32:08 best behind Yoshida in Saitama.  A late withdrawal with injury is Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei), a training partner of Rio Olympians Miyuki Uehara and Tomomi Tanaka and coached by 1991 World Championships silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita.  Beyond its invited elite field Hokkaido always features good talent in its general division, so watch for other men and women not listed below to factor into the action.

30th Hokkaido Marathon Elite Field
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 8/28/16
click here for complete field listing
all times listed are best in last three years

Men
Masanori Sakai (Kyudenko) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2014)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/SEV Sports) - 2:09:35 (Tokyo 2014)
Ryo Yamamoto (SGH Group) - 2:10:59 (Vienna 2014)
Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:11 (Nobeoka 2014)
Ryo Kiname (Mitsubishi HPS) - 2:12:48 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 2:13:24 (Biwako 2014)
Kyohei Nishi (Kyudenko) - 2:18:37 (Nobeoka 2014)
Kazuya Deguchi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:19:28 (Biwako 2016)

Women
Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama International 2015)
Aki Otagiri (Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 2:31:39 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Winfridah Kebaso (Kenya/Nitori) - 2:32:08 (Saitama International 2015)
Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:34:28 (Seoul International 2015)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

JAAF Director of Men's Marathoning Takeshi Soh Devastated: "We Need Our Fastest Athletes to Come to the Marathon"

http://www.sanspo.com/rio2016/news/20160823/rio16082305020030-n1.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In the Aug. 21 men's marathon on the final day of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics the Japanese men suffered a crushing defeat.  Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) was the top Japanese man at 16th overall, while Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) was 94th, falling below even Kenjiro Jitsui's 93rd-place finish at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  JAAF director of men's marathoning Takeshi Soh, 63, held his head in his hands as he said, "I guess maybe all we can do is try to get our fastest runners to come to the marathon and then build up their stamina."  But with the heavy emphasis placed on running ekidens wearing sponsor company logos, training and development are left up to each individual team.  Lamenting the way they are mired in lasting, deep-rooted tradition, Soh said, "At the present time we just can't seem to do that. We need the JAAF, the corporate leagues and the university association to come together and talk heart to heart."

Coming from a sprint background, Strengthening Committee Director and coach Kazunori Asaba, 55, was also upset.  Results were poor across the athletics team, not just in the marathon.  Of the 30 Japanese athletes entered in individual events just three, Ryohei Arai (men's javelin throw), Daichi Sawano (men's pole vault) and Miyuki Uehara (women's 5000 m), made the final in their event, with an additional three, Asuka Cambridge (men's 100 m), Keisuke Nozawa (men's 400 m hurdles) and Ryota Yamagata (men's 100 m), making it only as far as the semifinals.  In the shadow of the brilliance radiating from the men's 4x100 m relay silver and men's 50 km race walk bronze medals, the problems faced in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stand out in stark relief.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rio Men's Marathon Tops Soccer With 23.7% Peak TV Viewership Rate

http://news.mynavi.jp/news/2016/08/22/138/

translated by Brett Larner

The Aug. 21 men's marathon on the final day of the Rio Olympics recorded peak viewership rates of 20.1% between 9:15 and 10:00 p.m., 23.7% from 10:05 to 11:00 p.m., and 18.4% between 11:05 p.m. and midnight.  Early in the morning the same day, the Brazil-Germany men's soccer final recorded rates of 11.8% between 6:24 and 7:00 a.m. and 16.8% between 7:45 and 8:55 a.m.  The evening's pre-marathon Rio Olympics Highlights program earned a 17.6% rate between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.

Additionally, NTV's Aug. 19 women's wrestling feature from 5:00 to 7:45 a.m. that included three-time gold medalist Saori Yoshida's tearful silver medal had an 11.4% viewership rate.  The evening men's wrestling and men's 50 km race walk segment from 10:00 to 11:50 p.m. scored a 10.7% rate, with the late night synchronized swimming segment from 11:55 pm. to 1:30 a.m. rate hitting 10.5%, both segments getting into double digits.

The Aug. 20 athletics segment from 8:15 to 11:11 a.m. that included Japan's men's 4x100 m relay silver medal recorded a viewership rate of 18.2%.  That day's highlight show had an 18.2% between 6:10 and 6:45 p.m. and a 16.3% rate between 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.  Rates were examined by Video Research Ltd. in the Kanto region for NHK's general Olympic broadcast except where noted.

Men's Marathon Rout - JAAF Executives Announce Resignation

http://www.nikkansports.com/olympic/rio2016/athletics/news/1698472.html

translated by Brett Larner

In the Rio de Janeiro Olympics men's marathon on Aug. 21, Satoru Sasaki (30) was the top Japanese man at 16th in 2:13:57.  Suehiro Ishikawa (36) was 36th, with Hisanori Kitajima (31) placing 94th.

At the end of athletics competition Japan's total was two medals and two top eight finishes, a total exceeding the JAAF's target one medal but falling short of its goal of five top eight finishes.  JAAF strengthening committee chairman Kazunori Asaba (55) announced that he intends to resign his position following the Rio Olympics.  Strengthening committee vice-chairman Katsumi Sakai (56) and director of men's marathoning Takeshi Soh (63) are also expected to join the exodus of resignations.  Japanese athletics will be forced to make a fresh start before the Tokyo Olympics.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics Athletics Day Ten Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

No real surprises in the men's marathon to wrap up the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.  Berlin and London Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) for gold, Tokyo Marathon winner Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) for silver, Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) stepping up for a medal in bronze, world champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) just missing the podium, DNFs for Kenyan and Ethiopian B-men Stanley Biwott and Tesfaye Abera, and irrelevant performances from the Japanese men.  The Japanese men finished in PB order, Satoru Sasaki and Suehiro Ishikawa hanging on to the pack for a while until fading to 16th and 36th, Hisanori Kitajima never in it and finishing 94th in 2:25:11.

Four men born outside Africa qualified for Rio with sub-2:10 times.  The Japanese men were three of them.  Sasaki was the only non-African-born athlete to have qualified sub-2:09.  This was a good team, one of the best in the field.  And yet, they were irrelevant, again.  Hats off to the less accomplished athletes like Alphonce Felix Simbu (Tanzania), Jared Ward (U.S.A.), Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) and Eric Gillis (Canada) who made the top ten.  Sasaki's 2:13:57 for 16th, the 9th-fastest ever by a Japanese man at the Olympics, was exactly in line with most of the rest of Japanese long distance in Rio, a mid-to-high-teens placing and a time just inside the ten fastest-ever Japanese times at the Olympics:

  • men's marathon: 16. Satoru Sasaki, 2:13:57 - JPN Olympic #9
  • women's marathon: 14. Kayoko Fukushi, 2:29:53 - JPN Olympic #8
  • women's 10000 m: 18. Yuka Takashima, 31:36.44 - JPN Olympic #8
  • women's 5000 m: 15. Miyuki Uehara, 15:23.41 (h) - JPN Olympic #8
  • men's 3000 mSC: 11(h). Kazuya Shiojiri, 8:40.98 - JPN Olympic #7

U.S.-based Suguru Osako, part of the Alberto Salazar-led Nike Oregon Project alongside Rupp and Rio gold medalists Matt Centrowitz (U.S.A.) and Mo Farah (Great Britain), deserves credit for beating that curve somewhat, his 13:31.45 the second-fastest 5000 m time ever by a Japanese athlete at the Olympics and his 27:51.94 the third-fastest 10000 m, but even those landed him only 16th in his 5000 m heat and 17th in the 10000 m.  Except for his 10000 m and Uehara's surprising 5000 m performance, none of them made the Japanese Olympic top ten for placing,

So pretty well across the board in Rio, the Japanese spectrum ranged from Sasaki and the other top Japanese athletes running OK times nowhere near what they needed to be competitive and downwards from there.  These are good athletes.  Especially given the strength of the men's marathon team, how could this be?  Brainstorming possible reasons of varying plausibility:

  • The JAAF and coaches are setting the wrong goals.
  • The JAAF and coaches are instilling the wrong mentality.
  • The JAAF and coaches are stuck in the past.
  • The JAAF and coaches don't know how to cultivate their best talent.
  • Their coaches don't know how to peak them for an international championships.
  • They are overtraining for the Olympics (subset of the above).
  • They don't know how to compete internationally.
  • They don't have competitive psychology or can't handle stress.
  • They don't care about medalling or running seriously.
  • They have other reasons for being at the Olympics.
  • Their PBs from domestic races are not what they seem.
  • There are problems with the selection system.
  • Add your theory here.

Exploring those would be another article or two, or three.  Maybe later this week.  But whatever the reasons, the consistent level of Japanese distance performances shows exactly where its bar is being set.  Overall Rio was Japan's best-ever Olympics, 6th overall in the medal count with 12 gold, 8 silver and 21 bronze, medals and podium near-misses coming in a range of sports and events including many outside Japan's traditional strengths. That's great news with the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, but the men's 4x100 m silver medal aside, the contrast between most of the rest of the Japanese Olympic team and its athletics squad couldn't have been starker.  It's clearly not the case that the Japanese athletes aren't good enough, but it's equally clear that they're not getting what they need to be their best when it counts most.  Other sports have cleaned house and represented Japan in a way that made the country proud.  It's time for athletics to do the same.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Aug. 21, 2016
click here for complete results

Men's Marathon
1. Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) - 2:08:44
2. Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 2:09:54
3. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 2:10:05
4. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) - 2:11:04
5. Alphonce Felix Simbu (Tanzania) - 2:11:15
6. Jared Ward (U.S.A.) - 2:11:30
7. Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) - 2:11:42
8. Munyo Solomon Mutai (Uganda) - 2:11:49
9. Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) - 2:11:52
10. Eric Gillis (Canada) - 2:12:29
-----
16. Satoru Sasaki (Japan) - 2:13:57
36. Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan) - 2:17:08
94. Hisanori Kitajima (Japan) - 2:25:11

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rio de Janeiro Olympics Athletics Day Nine Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Men's javelin throw national champion Ryohei Arai (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) was the lone Japanese athlete in action on the last evening of Olympic athletics action.  Despite a throw of 84.16 m in the qualification round that put him at 4th going into the final, Arai choked under the pressure.  Opening with a throw of only 77.98 m, he followed with two more throws under 80 m before being cut and ultimately finished 11th of 12.  In a TV interview afterward he could do little more than sob and apologize to everyone who supported him.  His underperformance means that two Japanese men must make the top eight in the marathon for the Japanese athletics squad to meet the JAAF's total targeted number of medal and top eight placings, a tall order.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Aug. 20, 2016
click here for complete results

Men's Javelin Throw Final
1. Thomas Rohler (Germany) - 90.30
2. Julius Yego (Kenya) - 88.24
3. Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago) - 85.38
-----
11. Ryohei Arai (Japan) - 79.47

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved