Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An Update on Eastern European Women in Japan

by Brett Larner

Yesterday it was announced that Russian Albina Mayorova has received a four-year suspension after testing positive for elevated testosterone. Mayorova was a four-time winner of Japan's major women's marathons and a regular at the Tokyo Marathon. Her suspension follows that of a number of other Eastern European women to have won Japanese marathons in the last ten years, including Inga Abitova, Tatiana Aryasova, Mariya Konovalova, and Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko, all five represented by Russian Agent Andrey Baranov and his Spartanik agency. What impact have these and other women from former Soviet nations had on the domestic Japanese women's marathon circuit?

Below is a list of every time one has finished in the top three in one of Japan's five main women's marathons in the last 20 years plus other results by those who later tested positive. During that period, women from former Soviet nations have won Japanese marathons 21 times. Of those, thirteen were by athletes who tested positive or had adverse biological passport findings. Thirteen of the 21 wins were in the last ten years, nine by later suspended athletes.

Looking at top three finishes, in the last 20 years 42 were by former Soviet nation women, 19 of whom were suspended. Of those, 19 came in the last ten years, 11 by suspended athletes. Despite this record, virtually all of the races maintained their relationships with Baranov until very recently. The Saitama International Women's Marathon invited Belarus athlete Maryna Demantsevich to its most recent running in November, 2016.

What has the impact of these performances been on Japanese women? Of the nine times that later-suspended Eastern European women won Japanese marathons in the last ten years, Japanese women came 2nd six times.

  • Kiyoko Shimahara was 2nd to Abitova at the first running of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon in 2009.  
  • In her marathon debut Noriko Higuchi was 2nd to Aryasova at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon. 
  • 2009 Berlin World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki dominated the 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon while trying to make the London Olympic team, only to have Mayorova blow by with ease in the final kilometers.
  • Azusa Nojiri was 2nd to Mayorova at the 2013 Yokohama International Women's Marathon.
  • Kayoko Fukushi finished 2nd behind Gamera-Shymyrko at the 2013 Osaka International Women's Marathon.  
  • The great Yukiko Akaba was 2nd to Gamera-Shmyrko in Osaka in 2014, a race Akaba had announced as her final race before retiring.

Looking at top three placings, twelve Japanese women were kept out of the top three a total of thirteen times in the last 20 years, nine of them in the last ten years. Former national record holder Yoko Shibui was kept out twice, once by Aryasova in Tokyo 2011 and again by Mayorova in Nagoya a year later. The podium in Japan usually runs eight deep, and looking at that level there are even more.

I've written before about the long-term psychological effects of winning and losing in relation to Eastern European doping and Japanese women.  How might have Higuchi and Fukushi's careers have been different with those early wins?  How might Ozaki have been different in the London Olympics had she gone in a champ instead of running one of the best races of her career and still getting destroyed? Nojiri might have made the 2014 Asian Games had she won in Yokohama, and as a newly-independent runner a win would have had enormous impact on her sponsorship opportunities. Akaba's career would have been capped by a victory on home soil.

All of these came during the post-Beijing Olympics slump during 2009-2014 when Japanese women's marathoning was perceived to be at its weakest and the athletes were regularly subject to hearing that they weren't as good as the people who came before them. What would six big wins have done for their mindset, personally and collectively, to the perception of their true standing in the modern sport, to the standards set for them to chase based on that standing?

Stolen glory and prize money aside, in Japan its greatest champions, international medalists and winners of the biggest domestic marathons, are revered and reap major financial benefits post-career in guest appearances at races and TV commentating work. Being elevated to 1st years later doesn't have the same cachet and does nothing to fix their names in the public's mind. How many people remember that Shimahara was 2nd in Yokohama? How many would have remembered her as the first Yokohama champion?

There's no giving back any of that and no answers to many of those questions, but as things seem to be turning in the right direction here two questions that need public answers are the why and who of this situation persisting for so long even after races had already gotten burned.

Top three placings by Eastern European women in Japan's major women's marathons over the last 20 years.  Athletes whose names are in bold underwent suspensions for positive drug tests or adverse biological passport findings.

Tokyo / Yokohama / Saitama International Women's Marathon
2013
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:25:55
2. Azusa Nojiri (Japan) - 2:28:47
3. Jessica Augusto (Portugal) - 2:29:11
4. Mizuho Nasukawa (Japan) - 2:30:27
-----
DNF - Tatyana Filonyuk (Ukraine)

2009
1. Inga Abitova (Russia) - 2:27:18
2. Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan) - 2:28:51
3. Catherina Ndereba (Kenya) - 2:29:13
4. Bruna Genovese (Italy) - 2:29:57
-----
7. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:32:09

2005
1. Naoko Takahashi (Japan) - 2:24:39
2. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:25:15
3. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:26:50
4. Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) - 2:26:55
5. Mara Yamauchi (Great Britain) - 2:27:38

2003
1. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:24:47
2. Naoko Takahashi (Japan) - 2:27:21
3. Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan) - 2:31:10
-----
7. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:39:01

2002
1. Banuela Katesigwa (Tanzania) - 2:24:59
2. Rie Matsuoka (Japan) - 2:25:02
3. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:26:45
4. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:29:31

2001
1. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:25:08
2. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:25:29
3. Bruna Genovese (Italy) - 2:25:35
4. Constantina Dita (Romania) - 2:26:39

1999
1. Eri Yamaguchi (Japan) - 2:22:12
2. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:27:05
3. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:28:06
4. Jane Salumae (Estonia) - 2:28:56
5. Masako Chiba (Japan) - 2:29:00

Osaka International Women's Marathon
2015
1. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:22:09
2. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:24:07
3. Risa Shigetomo (Japan) - 2:26:39
4. Yuko Watanabe (Japan) - 2:28:36
5. Chieko Kido (Japan) - 2:29:08

2014
1. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:24:37
2. Yukiko Akaba (Japan) - 2:26:00
3. Karolina Jarzynska (Poland) - 2:26:31
4. Sairi Maeda (Japan) - 2:26:46
5. Mara Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:28:06
6. Natalia Puchkova (Russia) - 2:28:44

2013
1. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:23:58
2. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 2:24:21
3. Yuko Watanabe (Japan) - 2:25:56
4. Mari Ozaki (Japan) - 2:26:41
DNF - Mariya Konovalova (Russia)

2012
1. Risa Shigetomo (Japan) - 2:23:23
2. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:24:46
3. Azusa Nojiri (Japan) - 2:24:57
4. Chika Horie (Japan) - 2:28:35
DNF - Lidiya Grigoryeva (Russia)

2005
1. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:22:56
2. Mari Ozaki (Japan) - 2:23:59
3. Harumi Hiroyama (Japan) - 2:25:56
4. Miki Oyama (Japan) - 2:26:55

1999
1. Lyubov Morgunova (Russia) - 2:27:43
2. Mayumi Ichikawa (Japan) - 2:27:57
3. Hiromi Ominami (Japan) - 2:30:19
4. Masae Ueoka (Japan) - 2:32:41

1998
1. Naoko Takahashi (Japan) - 2:25:48
2. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:27:19
3. Harumi Hiroyama (Japan) - 2:28:12
4. Tomoko Kai (Japan) - 2:28:13

Tokyo Marathon
2015
1. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:23:15
2. Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:24:03
3. Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:24:26
-----
8. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:34:21
9. Yukari Abe (Japan) - 2:34:43

2014
1. Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) - 2:22:23
2. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30
3. Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) - 2:24:16
-----
6. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:28:18
7. Mai Ito (Japan) - 2:28:36

2013
1. Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:25:34
2. Yeshi Esayias (Ethiopia) - 2:26:01
3. Irina Mikitenko (Germany) - 2:26:41
4. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:26:51
5. Yoshimi Ozaki (Japan) - 2:28:30

2011
1. Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:27:29
2. Noriko Higuchi (Japan) - 2:28:49
3. Tatiana Arkhipova (Russia) - 2:28:56
4. Yoko Shibui (Japan) - 2:29:03
5. Misaki Katsumata (Japan) - 2:31:10

2010
1. Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) - 2:34:39
2. Robe Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:36:29
3. Nuta Olaru (Romania) - 2:36:42
4. Maki Kono (Japan) - 2:39:01

Nagoya Women's Marathon
2015
1. Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:22:08
2. Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:22:27
3. Sairi Maeda (Japan) - 2:22:48
4. Mai Ito (Japan) - 2:24:42

2014
1. Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:23:43
2. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:24:07
3. Ryoko Kizaki (Japan) - 2:25:26
4. Eri Hayakawa (Japan) - 2:25:31
5. Tomomi Tanaka (Japan) - 2:26:05
-----
26. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:36:59

2012
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52
2. Yoshimi Ozaki (Japan) - 2:24:14
3. Remi Nakazato (Japan) - 2:24:28
4. Yoko Shibui (Japan) - 2:25:02
-----
7. Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:25:49

2010
1. Yuri Kano (Japan) - 2:27:11
2. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:28:13
3. Hiromi Ominami (Japan) - 2:28:35
-----
19. Tatyana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:41:03
DNF - Lyubov Denisova (Russia)

2003
1. Takami Ominami (Japan) - 2:25:03
2. Risa Hagiwara (Japan) - 2:28:14
3. Irina Bogacheva (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:28:17
4. Eriko Amo (Japan) - 2:28:57

Nagano Marathon
2014
1. Alina Prokopyeva (Russia) - 2:30:56
2. Rika Shintaku (Japan) - 2:36:02
3. Shoko Shimizu (Japan) - 2:37:21
4. Risa Takemura (Japan) - 2:37:43

2013
1. Natalya Puchkova (Russia) - 2:30:40
2. Beatrice Mutai (Kenya) - 2:36:51
3. Seika Iwamura (Japan) - 2:41:19
4. Mika Okunaga (Japan) - 2:44:21

2010
1. Lisa-Jane Weightman (Australia) - 2:28:48
2. Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:31:53
3. Eri Hayakawa (Japan) - 2:33:05
4. Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan) - 2:34:46
DNF - Irina Timofeyeva (Russia)

2009
1. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:30:08
2. Irene Limika (Kenya) - 2:30:50
3. Akemi Ozaki (Japan) - 2:31:18
4. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:34:17
5. Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:34:32

2008
1. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:26:39
2. Katherine Smith (Australia) - 2:28:51
3. Donta Gruca (Poland) - 2:31:54
4. Miyuki Ando (Japan) - 2:34:25

2007
1. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:27:49
2. Dire Tune (Ethiopia) - 2:28:59
3. Lyubov Morgunova (Russia) - 2:29:34
4. Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:34:48
5. Askanech Mengistu (Ethiopia) - 2:37:39

2006
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:28:52
2. Sylvia Skvortsova (Russia) - 2:29:28
3. Nina Rillstone (New Zealand) - 2:29:46
4. Yoshimi Hoshino (Japan) - 2:36:56
5. Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia) - 2:39:21

2005
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:28:21
2. Lidia Simon (Ukraine) - 2:31:20
3. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:31:58
4. Gladys Asiba (Kenya) - 2:36:12

2004
1. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:28:05
2. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:31:47
3. Nataliya Berkut (Ukraine) - 2:32:49
4. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:33:09
5. Asami Obi (Japan) - 2:33:34
6. Yoshimi Hoshino (Japan) - 2:37:48
7. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:38:48

2003
1. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:28:23
2. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:29:05
3. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:31:05
4. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan) - 2:32:17
5. Tomoe Yokoyama (Japan) - 2:36:27

2002
1. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:26:09
2. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:27:16
3. Dorota Gruca (Poland) - 2:31:08
4. Masako Koide (Japan) - 2:32:21
5. Irina Bogacheva (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:32:54

2001
1. Akiyo Onishi (Japan) - 2:31:20
2. Chihiro Tanaka (Japan) - 2:32:05
3. Natalia Galushko (Belarus) - 2:32:51
4. Hideko Yoshimura (Japan) - 2:37:49

2000
1. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:24:55
2. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:26:26
3. Alla Zhilyayeva (Russia) - 2:28:27
4. Chika Horie (Japan) - 2:29:12
5. Naoko Sato (Japan) - 2:35:31

1999
1. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:28:41
2. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:28:59
3. Malgorzata Sobanska (Poland) - 2:31:02
4. Xiu-juan Ren (China) - 2:33:58

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

'Russian Marathon Runner Mayorova Banned for Doping’

http://www.wyff4.com/article/russian-marathon-runner-mayorova-banned-for-doping/9549591

Albina Mayorova won the 2005 and 2006 Nagano Marathon, the 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon, and the 2013 Yokohama International Women's Marathon. The runners-up in Nagoya and Yokohama were Yoshimi Ozaki and Azusa Nojiri, both of whom had been coached by 1991 Tokyo World Championships silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita. Ozaki, the 2009 Berlin World Championships silver medalist, made the London Olympic team in Nagoya. A victory there might have put her in more of a winner's mindset going into the Olympic Games, where she ran badly. After not making the London Olympics Nojiri left the Daiichi Seimei corporate team to go the private sponsor route. A win in Yokohama would have had an enormous impact on her sponsorship opportunities and could have led to her running for Japan at the 2014 Asian Games.

At the time of Mayorova's Nagoya win over five years ago, JRN wrote:
Russian veteran Albina Mayorova ran a massive negative split of over two minutes to effortlessly blow by Japan's best in the final part of the race and take the win in 2:23:52, nearly two minutes better than her 8 1/2 year-old PB. Tumbling in the turbulence behind her [was] 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei).

While the lead pack of Japanese Olympic hopefuls set off at 2:23-flat pace, splitting exactly 1:11:30 at halfway, Mayorova and Ukrainian Olena Shurkhno ran a more conservative 1:13:00 first half. Both Mayorova and Shurkhno then turned it on, picking up the pace and catching stragglers from the lead pack one by one. The 34-year-old Mayorova, consistently at the 2:28-2:31 level since 2005 with a 2:25:35 best from the 2003 Chicago Marathon, split a stunning 1:10:52 for the second half, while Shurkhno managed a more modest 1:12:49 second half to take nearly three minutes off her best from last year's downhill Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon.

Both clocked 7:20 for the final 2.195 km, the fastest in the field, to join other Eastern European women from the same athlete management firm, including the runner-up at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine), 2011 Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova (Russia) and 2011 Tokyo Marathon first and third placers Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) and Tatiana Petrova (Russia), in a remarkably consistent pattern of success over the last year: a negative split with the fastest last 2.195 km in the race, the kind of closing splits more commonly run by men. Combined with this race strategy, this group's seemingly innovative training methods make for a nearly unbeatable combination. Amazing.
In the five years since then Gamera-Shmyrko, Shobukhova and Arvasova have all been suspended for biological passport irregularities and doping violations. Shobukhova went on to coach newly-elevated Rio Olympics marathon 4th-placer Volha Mazuronak (Belarus), who like the other Eastern European athletes above was represented by disgraced Russian agent Andrey Baranov and ran with the group's familiar race strategy.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ndiku Over Tanui, a World-Leader From Ekarare, and More - Weekend Track Roundup

by Brett Larner

Along with the weekend's road action there were high-level track meets and time trials all across the country.  The biggest was the two-day Hyogo Relay Carnival in Kobe.  Highlights from Hyogo:

  • In Saturday's Asics Challenge men's 10000 m, Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) ran 27:55.10 to outrun Hakone Ekiden star Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) for the win.  Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) delivered the fastest Japanese time so far in 2017, running 28:04.51 for 3rd.  In his first race since running 1:00:57 at last month's United Airlines NYC Half, Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) was 6th in 28:24.13.  Samuel Mwangi (Team Konica Minolta) stopped mid-race and was carried off the track on a stretcher.
  • Two-time World Junior Championships gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) outkicked Rio Olympic silver medalist Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) to win Sunday's Grand Prix men's 10000 m in 27:39.40.  Tanui was 2nd in 27:45.85, holding off 2014 World Junior Championships bronze medalist Nicholas Kosimbei (Team Toyota) who took 3rd in 27:48.51.  Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) was the top Japanese man at 4th in 28:07.23, with Tokyo Marathon debutants Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) next in 28:14.14 and 28:15.40.  National record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) was a DNS.
  • Yuka Hori (Team Panasonic) led the entire way in the Grand Prix women's 10000 m only to get outkicked over the last lap by Mizuki Matsuda (Team Daihatsu) and Sakiho Tsutsui (Team Yamada Denki).  Matsuda took the win in 32:15.85 with Tsutsui 2nd in 32:16.44 and Hori 3rd in 32:22.18.  Running in the same pack with the top three throughout the race, Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) was tripped from behind by Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) at 8800 m and fell hard, ultimately finishing 15th in 33:11.56.
  • After running the fastest-ever marathon by an under-20 Japanese woman earlier this year, 2:27:08 for 4th in Tokyo, 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) returned to racing with a 16:14.24 for 8th in the Asics Challenge women's 5000 m.
  • Already all-time Japanese #4 in the women's 3000 m steeplechase, Misaki Sango (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) came 0.87 seconds short of her PB but took more than 4 seconds off her own meet record as she won in 9:50.72.  The meet record also fell in the under-18 girls' 2000 m steeplechase, with Yuka Nosue (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) setting a new mark of 6:40.69.
  • The top seven all broke the meet record the under-18 boys' 3000 m.  With a powerful kick over the last lap Ren Tazawa (Aomori Yamada H.S.) took the win in 8:18.05.  7th-placer Reo Sato (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) was more than a second under the old MR in 8:25.37.

At this year's first edition of the Nittai University Time Trials series in Kanagawa:

  • Helen Ekarare (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) ran a PB 8:53.70, the fastest under-20 time in the world so far this year, to win the women's 3000 m A-heat.  Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) was the top Japanese woman, 2nd in 9:07.85.
  • Nyairo's rival for the top Kenyan on the Hakone Ekiden circuit, Patrick Wambui (Nihon Univ.) won the 10000 m A-heat in 28:04.85 in a near photo-finish with pro Bernard Kimanyi (Team Yakult).
  • Newcomer Evans Keitany (Team Toyota Boshoku) won a four-way Kenyan sprint finish to top the men's 5000 m A-heat in 13:43.21.  Just off the leaders, Yuta Bando (Hosei Univ.) had a major breakthrough as he broke 14 minutes for the first time to take 6th in 13:49.78.  After going sub-2:10 in his second marathon at February's Tokyo Marathon, Yuma Hattori (Team Toyota) returned to the track with a 14:04.64 for 15th.
  • Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyo Univ.) won the men's 5000 m B-heat in 13:51.58.  Fresh from quitting the Konica Minolta corporate team and running as an independent, Keita Shitara, twin brother of Yuta, had his best race since last April's Nittai Time Trials, running 13:59.07 for 8th. Post-race Shitara said that he hopes to have a new corporate team lined up by June and plans to run his marathon debut in Fukuoka this December.

At Saitama's Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials:

  • All-time Asian junior #3 in the half marathon after running 1:02:05 at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon, Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) edged Ethiopian pro Kassa Mekashaw (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) by less than a second for the win in the 10000 m in a PB 28:44.19.
  • Mekashaw's teammate Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) had an easy win in the 5000 m A-heat in 13:51.24, the only runner to go under 14 minutes.

At the Cardinal Classic meet in the U.S.:

  • Takeshi Okada (Univ. of California Berkeley) won the 3000 m steeplechase in a PB of 8:53.35.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jepkosgei Breaks Gifu Seiryu Half Course Record

by Brett Larner

Just three weeks after her world record run at the Prague Half Marathon, Joyclinie Jepkosgei blew apart the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon with one of the fastest women's half marathons ever run on Japanese soil.  Solo from the start, Jepkosgei hit 5 km in 15:08, just 12 seconds behind the second men's pack led by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).  As in her WR run Jepkosgei faded progressively the rest of the way, but with a lead of over a minute at 10 km there was never any danger of her being caught.

Jepkosgei became the first woman to break 68 minutes in hilly Gifu, setting a new course record of 1:07:44.  Running the race a little more evenly, runner-up Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) was also under the old course record, 2nd in 1:08:19.  London World Championships women's marathon team leader Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) returned to the roads for the first time since her 2:21:36 debut at last month's Nagoya Women's Marathon, running 1:12:12 for 3rd, with her London teammate-to-be Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)  5th in 1:12:41.  Returning to Japan after breaking 2:30 for the first time at Feburary's Tokyo Marathon, Sara Hall (U.S.A.) took 7th in 1:14:40.

Despite a solid international men's field to celebrate Gifu's first edition as the first IAAF gold label half marathon in Japan, Japan-based Kenyans dominated the overseas and domestic competition.  An almost all-African lead pack of at least fifteen went through 5 km in 14:26, shaking off Japanese runners Takafumi Kikuchi (Team SGH Holdings) and Ayumu Hisaibaru (Team Kurosaki Harima) and a few others to whittle down to eleven as they hit 10 km in 29:05.  By 15 km that was down to five, and over the last five km the Japan-based pair of Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/Team ND Software) and Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) pulled away.  Battling all the way to the finish line, both clocked 1:00:57 with Mutiso given the win.  Last year's Marugame Half winner Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) took 3rd in 1:01:19.

With lower temperatures thanks to a move from May to April and the absence of perennial Gifu top Japanese man Yusei Nakao (Smiley Angel AC), Kawauchi was optimistic of scoring the top Japanese position for the first time.  Leading the second pack the entire way he ran down early front pack runner Hisaibaru but came up short of catching Kikuchi.  Kikuchi took 14th in 1:03:50 with Kawauchi 15th in 1:04:06.

Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Top Results
Gifu, 4/23/17
click here for complete results

Women
1. Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) - 1:07:44 - CR
2. Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) - 1:08:19 (CR)
3. Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:12:12
4. Mimi Belete (Bahrain) - 1:12:22
5. Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:12:41
6. Sayo Nomura (Uniqlo) - 1:12:51
7. Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 1:14:40
8. Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo) - 1:15:03
9. Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 1:16:49
10. Rina Asano (Aichi Denki) - 1:17:33
11. Kie Watanabe (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:17:51
12. Lillian Partridge (Great Britain) - 1:18:14

Men
1. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 1:00:57
2. Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:57
3. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:19
4. Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 1:01:27
5. Kenneth Keter (Kenya) - 1:01:48
6. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 1:02:26
7. Goitom Kifle (Eritrea) - 1:02:27
8. Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:32
9. Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:33
10. Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 1:03:27
11. James Rungaru (Kenya/Chuo Hatsujo) - 1:03:45
12. Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 1:03:48
13. Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:03:49
14. Takafumi Kikuchi (SGH Holdings) - 1:03:50
15. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:06
-----
DNF - Yonas Mebrahtu (U.S.A.)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon Japanese National Team Selection Policy


http://www.jaaf.or.jp/files/article/document/10127-0.pdf

translated by Brett Larner

April 18, 2017
Japan Association of Athletics Federations

1. Selection Policy

With the aim of winning medals at the Olympic Games, we will select a Japanese national team comprised of athletes who have demonstrated the capability to perform at the maximum of their abilities in key race situations and who possess the speed necessary to compete at the world level.

2. Selection Competitions

     ( 1 ) Marathon Grand Champion Race (referred to hereafter as MGC Race), scheduled to be held Sept. 2019 or later

     ( 2 ) MGC Series

          1 ) Men
               ・71st and 72nd Fukuoka International Marathon
               ・Tokyo Marathon 2018 and 2019
               ・73rd and 74th Biwako Mainichi Marathon
               ・67th and 68th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

          2 ) Women
               ・3rd and 4th Saitama International Marathon
               ・37th and 38th Osaka International Women's Marathon
               ・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2018 and 2019
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

     ( 3 ) MGC Final Challenge

          1 ) Men
               ・73rd Fukuoka International Marathon
               ・Tokyo Marathon 2020
               ・75th Biwako Mainichi Marathon

          2 ) Women
               ・5th Saitama International Marathon
               ・39th Osaka International Women's Marathon
               ・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2020
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

3. Selection Criteria

Based on the above organization policy, Japanese national representatives will be selected in the following order of priority.

     ( 1 ) Winner of the MGC Race.

     ( 2 ) From among the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the MGC Race, the higher-placing finisher who has cleared the MGC Race Selection Time Standard.

     ( 3 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion ( 2 ), the 2nd-place finisher in the MGC Race.

     ( 4 ) The highest-ranked competitor from among athletes who clear the MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard.  However, this is subject to having run in (finished) MGC Series races or having qualified for the MGC Race.

     ( 5 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion (4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finishers in the MGC Race not meeting selection criterion ( 2 ).

4. Selection Procedure

     ( 1 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 1 ), ( 2 ) and ( 3 ) will be immediate upon the completion of the MGC Race.

     ( 2 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 4 ) and ( 5 ) will be immediate upon the completion of all designated men's and women's MGC Final Challenge races.

5. Selection Time Standards

     ( 1 ) MGC Race Selection Time Standard
          time:     Men: 2:05:30     women: 2:21:00
          eligible period:     Aug. 1, 2017 to Apr. 30, 2019
          eligible competitions:     Races certified by the IAAF as world record-elligible.

     ( 2 ) MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard
          time:     To be determined by the Development Committee following the closure of qualification for the MGC Race.  Scheduled to be announced in May, 2019.
          eligible competitions:     MGC Final Challenge

6. Alternate Athletes

     ( 1 ) In the event that an athlete is selected according to selection criterion ( 4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finisher in the MGC Race who was not selected to the Olympic Team and the 4th-place finisher will be selected as alternates.

     ( 2 ) In the event that no athlete is selected according to selection criterion (4 ), the 4th and 5th-place finishers in the MGC Race will be selected as alternates.

7. MGC Race Qualification

Athletes who meet the following conditions will be granted qualification for the MGC Race.

     ( 1 ) MGC Series (2017 and 2018 fiscal years)
          Athletes who satisfy the following requirements for Japanese finisher placing and time in the specified races.  Athletes who have already qualified for the MGC Race will not be included in the Japanese finisher placings.  [click to enlarge]

          1 ) Men


          2 ) Women


     ( 2 ) Wildcard

          1 ) Athletes who meet either of the following two criteria in any competition certified by the IAAF as world record-eligible between Aug. 1, 2017 and Apr. 30, 2019.

               (1) Men who run faster than 2:08:30 and women who run faster than 2:24:00.

               (2) Men who average faster than 2:11:00 and women who average faster than 2:28:00 in their two fastest marathons within the eligible period above.

          2 ) Athletes who finish in the top 8 at the 16th World Championships (London, 2017)

          3 ) Athletes who finish in the top 3 at the 18th Asian Games (Jakarta, 2018)

          4 ) If not a single athlete meets the MGC Race qualifying standards due to weather or other conditions in any MGC Series competition, the Development Committee may designate individual athletes as having run the equivalent of the standards.

8. Other

     ( 1 ) In the event that any selected athlete is unable to demonstrate adequate fitness prior to the Olympic Games due to injury or other issues, they will be replaced on the National Team by designated alternates.

     ( 2 ) The above selection requirements will be confirmed pending finalization of the Olympic participation qualifications stipulated by the IOC and IAAF.

     ( 3 ) The Olympic Games marathons will be held in Tokyo between July 31 and Aug. 9, 2020.


ENDS

Commetary: 

This is the JAAF's attempt to move toward a U.S.-style one-shot Olympic Trials race for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  To summarize, within the next two years Japanese athletes have to run sub-2:11 or sub-2:28, tweaked for a few tougher races, in major domestic marathons, sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24 in overseas marathons, or place well at the 2017 London World Championships or 2018 Jakarta Asian Games in order to get into the Olympic Trials race, aka the MGC Race.  With a few provisions for fast times, basically the top two at the MGC Race will be named to the Olympic team.  

The timing of the MGC Race during the 2019-20 winter season means that the existing series of selection races, designated above as the MGC Final Challenge, would be made irrelevant to 2020 selection.  Given that the JAAF relies heavily on those races for sponsor income, they've inserted a wildcard option for the third spot on each team to keep that season's races meaningful. Anyone who clears TBA standards that season in the MGC Final Challenge races will pick up the third spot, which will go to the 3rd-placer at the MGC Race if nobody runs fast enough.

A few observations:
  1. The Tokyo Marathon, the fastest women's marathon in Japan, remains mostly excluded as an option for Japanese women to make national teams.  This year the top Japanese woman in Tokyo, Ayaka Fujimoto, was 4th overall in 2:27:08, a performance that would meet the qualifying standards for any of the four women's MGC Series races.  However, while it has been impossible for Japanese women to make a national team in Tokyo, the new procedure does introduce a window: if a Japanese woman clears 2:24:00 in Tokyo, a record-eligible course, or averages under 2:28:00 between Tokyo and one other race, she will qualify for the MGC Race under the wildcard provisions.
  2. Overseas races are also largely excluded from the selection process.  Although Japanese athletes can theoretically qualify for the MGC Race by running sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24:00 at record-eligible overseas races, only eight Japanese men and five Japanese women have ever run those times abroad, the most recent being Yuki Kawauchi at the 2013 Seoul International Marathon and Mizuki Noguchi at the 2005 Berlin Marathon.
  3. If run during the eligible period, high-level World Marathon Major performances such as Yukiko Akaba's 3rd-place finish at the 2013 London Marathon in 2:24:43 or Suguru Osako's 3rd-place debut earlier this week at the Boston Marathon in 2:10:28 would not by themselves qualify the athletes for the MGC Race under the wildcard criteria, not being fast enough or, in Osako's case, not having been run on a record-elligible course.  For the same reason Osako's time would also not count toward the two-race average option.
  4. There is a wild disparity in the men's and women's time standards.  The Japanese men's NR is 2:06:16, 3:19 off the WR.  The women's NR is 2:19:12, 3:47 off the WR.  Three Japanese men have run 2:06 times and three Japanese women 2:19, showing that the records are reasonably equivalent.  To qualify for the MGC Race, men must run within 4:44 of the NR, while in the main races women only have to run within 9:48 of the NR.  For the MGC Race Selection Time Standard Japanese men have to run more than 46 seconds faster than the NR, a time no non-African-born runner has ever run on a record-elligible course, while women have to run within 1:48 of the NR.  Given the lower numbers of female athletes this is no doubt intended to produce roughly equal numbers of competitors in the men's and women's MGC Races, but the fact remains that the barrier to making the Olympic team has been set far higher for Japanese men.
  5. While the qualifying standards for the U.S. Olympic Trials are arguably over-inclusive, the MGC Race standards will result in very small fields of around fifteen men and fifteen women.  In the last two-year period equivalent to the above window of eligibility, sixteen men and fifteen women met the qualifying standards.  Applying the same window to the 2016 Rio Olympics, fourteen men and twelve women qualified.  
  6. Dependent upon the TBA MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard, Hisanori Kitajima, the last-placing member of the Rio men's team, would not have made the Olympic team or even qualified for the MGC Race under the new procedure.  The new system is designed in part to keep inexperienced athletes like Kitajima who make a breakthrough in the Olympic year off the team.
  7. The exclusion of the 2019 Doha World Championships from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics selection procedure makes running on the national team at Doha a major minus for any top-level Japanese athletes.  Given that a strong performance in heat in Doha might be a good indicator of success in the Tokyo heat a year later it seems reasonable that there might be provisions for being named to the Tokyo team, or, as is the case for the Jakarta Asian Games at least the MGC Race, in the event of medalling in Doha, or for wildcard qualification for the MGC Race for a top eight finish in Doha the same way that has been designated for London. As a result, the Doha marathon teams may be weakest Japanese marathon squads in modern history.
  8. The MGC Race is likely be held on the Tokyo Olympics course during the winter.  The U.S. Trials for Rio in L.A. did a good job of finding people who could perform in similarly warm and sunny conditions at the Olympics.  The JAAF could stand to learn from that example and hold the MGC Race somewhere warm like Okinawa, Honolulu or Guam.  Like the U.S. Trials, pairing it with Okinawa's ~15,000-runner Naha Marathon or the ~20,000 runner Honolulu Marathon, holding the MGC Race on Saturday on a loop course so that the people running the mass-participation race the next day can come out to cheer, would go a long way toward maximizing the event's popularity along with allowing an approximation of the conditions runners will face at the Olympics.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Boston Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner


Asian junior half marathon record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) made a successful transition to the marathon at the Boston Marathon, finishing 3rd in 2:10:28 in his debut over the distance.  Always hanging near the rear of the lead pack, Osako appeared relaxed and never stressed when the pace changed, taking his time in catching back up whenever one of the frontline men threw in a surge.  Osako lost touch during the final battle between eventual winner Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) and NOP teammate Galen Rupp but pushed on to keep 3rd, Kirui breaking the tape in 2:09:37 and Rupp 2nd in 2:09:58.

Osako's 2:10:28 was the third-fastest ever by a Japanese man on the Boston course and made him just the second to break 2:11 in Boston after fellow Waseda University graduate Toshihiko Seko's 2:09:37 win in 1981 and 2:10:13 runner-up finish in 1979.  Given the heat of the day it was an encouraging step toward representing Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Running his second marathon, Hiroki Sugawa, coached by Seko at the DeNA corporate team, ran with Osako through 10 km before dropping out.  Fellow sub-elites Kaito Iwasa (Chuo Univ.) and Hiroki Kai (Team Raffine) were non-factors, well off their bests in 2:27:11 and 2:35:51.

Sub-elite women Kana Kurosawa (Team Hitachi) and Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu), like the three sub-elite men appearing through the Boston Marathon's partnership with the Katsuta Marathon and Ome 30 km, went out with the lead group of women during the slow early miles before dropping back.  Running Boston for the second year in a row, Kurosawa missed her PB by 15 seconds as she finished in 2:43:18 for 25th, still a five-minute improvement over her time last year.  Utsunomiya, a 1:13:39 half-marathoner, was totally unprepared for the big leagues, finishing in 3:06:49.

121st Boston Marathon
Boston, U.S.A., 4/17/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) - 2:09:37
2. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 2:09:58
3. Suguru Osako (Japan) - 2:10:28 - debut
4. Shadrack Biwott (U.S.A.) - 2:12:08
5. Wilson Chebet (Kenya) - 2:12:35
6. Abdi Abdirahman (U.S.A.) - 2:12:45
7. Augustus Maiyo (U.S.A.) - 2:13:16
8. Dino Sefir (Ethiopia) - 2:14:26
9. Luke Puskedra (U.S.A.) - 2:14:45
10. Jared Ward (U.S.A.) - 2:15:28
-----
39. Kaito Iwasa (Japan) - 2:27:11
94. Hiroki Kai (Japan) - 2:35:51
DNF - Hiroki Sugawa (Japan)

Women
1. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:21:52
2. Rose Chelimo (Kenya) - 2:22:51
3. Jordan Hasay (U.S.A.) - 2:23:00
4. Desiree Linden (U.S.A.) - 2:25:06
5. Gladys Cherono (Kenya) - 2:27:20
6. Valentine Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:29:35
7. Buzunesh Deba (Ethiopia) - 2:30:58
8. Brigid Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:31:48
9. Diane Nukuri (Burundi) - 2:32:24
10. Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:33:26
-----
25. Kana Kurosawa (Japan) - 2:43:18
158. Ami Utsunomiya (Japan) - 3:06:49 - debut

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 16, 2017

On Osako in Boston

by Brett Larner

U.S.-based for the last few years as part of the Nike Oregon Project, Suguru Osako makes his marathon debut at tomorrow's Boston Marathon.  It's had the Japanese media and other critics clucking that the choice of Boston "goes against the conventional wisdom of Japanese long distance" and that Boston's one-way, net downhill course means that he's more likely to run a fast time but that it "won't count."  The idea that Boston is a waste of time for Japanese runners because it's not record-elligible is a relatively recent one.  There's a pretty good argument to be made that the era of Japan's greatest strength as a marathon power lined up reasonably well with when the best Japanese marathoners were regularly in Boston and winning or placing, that once the powers that be decided Boston was off-limits to the best due to the risk of "wasting" a good one on a record-inelligible course Japanese marathoners stopped being competitive racers internationally as a whole.  Correlation, not causation, but it's hard to deny the history.

Osako being in the U.S. means he has other voices whispering in his ear, one of them a past Boston winner, so it's not that surprising to see him pick the United States' premier marathon for his debut.  He's got a solid cross country background, always a plus on the Boston course, going back all the way to his days at Saku Chosei H.S. under progressive head coach Hayashi Morozumi, and showed potential for longer distances with an Asian junior half marathon area record 1:01:47 win at the Ageo City Half Marathon his first year at Waseda University and some brilliant runs at the Hakone Ekiden in the next few years after that. A 1:01:13 PB at February's Marugame Half Marathon, his first half since his 2010 Ageo win, was encouraging.  How could he do in Boston?  It's tempting to read his last pre-Boston race, a 1:04:12 win at an amateur-level half marathon mid-March, as a marathon pace run, but looking again toward history, this is how the top ten Japanese performances in Boston and top ten Japanese marathon debuts line up:

All-time Japanese Boston Marathon Top Ten
  1. 2:09:27 - Toshihiko Seko, 1st, 1981
  2. 2:10:13 - Toshihiko Seko, 2nd, 1979
  3. 2:11:02 - Hiromi Taniguchi, 4th, 1993
  4. 2:11:32 - Kenjiro Jitsui, 6th, 2006
  5. 2:11:50 - Toshihiko Seko, 1st, 1987
  6. 2:13:15 - Takayuki Inubushi, 10th, 1998
  7. 2:13:40 - Tomoyuki Taniguchi, 5th, 1987
  8. 2:13:49 - Yoshiaki Unetani, 1st, 1969
  9. 2:13:55 - Akinori Kuramata, 11th, 1998
  10. 2:14:10 - Futoshi Shinohara, 9th, 1990

All-time Japanese Debut Marathon Top Ten
  1. 2:08:12 - Masakazu Fujiwara, 3rd, Lake Biwa 2003
  2. 2:08:53 - Koichi Morishita, 1st, Beppu-Oita 1991
  3. 2:09:03 - Yoshinori Oda, 4th, Tokyo 2011
  4. 2:09:12 - Tomoyuki Morita, 5th, Lake Biwa 2012
  5. 2:09:23 - Tomoya Shimizu, 5th, Lake Biwa 2008
  6. 2:09:27 - Yuta Shitara, 11th, Tokyo 2017
  7. 2:09:38 - Noriaki Igarashi, 4th, Fukuoka 1998
  8. 2:09:39 - Fumihiro Maruyama, 6th, Lake Biwa 2016
  9. 2:09:41 - Toshinari Takaoka, 3rd, Fukuoka 2001
  10. 2:09:50 - Atsushi Sato, 4th, Lake Biwa 2000

Historically speaking, anything under 2:14 would be a pretty solid performance in Boston for Osako. Under 2:12 would put him near the top of the ladder.  Only one Japanese man, fellow Waseda grad Toshihiko Seko, has ever gone sub-2:10 in Boston.  No Japanese man has ever debuted sub-2:10 outside Japan, but then again none of the ones who ran that fast the first time out was based in the States.  He's in something of a lose-lose situation; if he fails one contingent back home will say, "You see?"  If he succeeds the same people will say, "It doesn't count."  Let's hope he's got it in him not to care in the slightest either way.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Daichi Kamino Out of Gifu Seiryu Half With Achilles Injury After JAAF Marathon Training Camp

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170414-00000013-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

Former Hakone Ekiden uphill star Daichi Kamino (23, Team Konica Minolta) has withdrawn from next week's Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon with pain in his right Achilles tendon after attending a JAAF marathon training camp in Nelson, New Zealand focused toward developing high-potential candidates for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's marathon team.  Kamino went to the training camp on Mar. 22 along with this year's Hakone Ekiden Second Stage winner Kengo Suzuki (21, Kanagawa Univ.) and other young talent.  Under JAAF direction they did marathon-specific training such as 50 km runs, but near the end of the camp Kamino sustained the injury.  He returned to Japan on Apr. 14 as originally scheduled.  Kamino will try to recover in time for his planned marathon debut at December's Fukuoka International Marathon.