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Akaba and Osaki lead Japan’s hopes of continuing team medal tradition in Rio

Chisato Osaki of Japan during the World Road Running Champs in Udine 2007 (Getty Images)Chisato Osaki of Japan during the World Road Running Champs in Udine 2007 (Getty Images) © Copyright

There will be a Japanese team of nine runners for the IAAF / CAIXA World Half Marathon Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday 12 October.

The team was selected from the top finishers of JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Championships in March, Sendai International Half Marathon in May and Sapporo International Half Marathon in June.

Three runners, who ran in the World Road Running Championships last year in Udine, will be running in the World Half Marathon Championships in Rio. They are Tetsuo Nishimura on the men’s side and Chisato Osaki and Yuko Machida on the women’s side.

WOMEN - medal hopes again

Historically, the Japanese women’s team has performed much better than their male counterparts in the World Half Marathon and Road Running Championships. The women’s team won a team gold in 1992 and team have taken silver five times. They also finished third in the last three years. Originally, Mizuki Noguchi was selected to run in Rio, but because she has yet to recover from her injury which prevented her from running in the Olympic marathon, unfortunately she has been forced to withdraw from the team.

The two top runners on the women’s team are Yukiko Akaba and Chisato Osaki.

Akaba, who won the JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Championships with a personal best of 1:08:11, also ran the 10,000m in the Olympics, where she was 20th. Akaba won a silver medal at the Half Marathon in the 1999 World University Games, but she joined the truly elite ranks only recently after her daughter was born in August of 2006.  A versatile runner, Akaba is the third fastest in Japan at both 5000m and the half marathon. She is also fourth fastest at 10,000m.

Osaki, 21, is one of the most promising road runners in Japan.  Last year, she won the Matsue Ladies Half Marathon in her debut half marathon with 1:09:25, and then finished seventh at the World Road Running Championships with a personal best of 1:08:56. This year, Osaki was second in the Sapporo Half Marathon with 1:09:16.

MEN

On the men’s side, while Kazuo Ietani, who was third in the Sendai International Marathon, is maybe the best runner on the team, while Masato Kihara, 22, is perhaps the most promising young runner on the team. Ietani, who was eighth in the 2005 World Half Marathon Championships in Edmonton, has a Half Marathon best of 1:01.30, while Kihara has a best of 1:01:50, the Japanese collegiate record.

Kenya's Japanese connections
 
Incidentally, Mekubo Mogusu and Julia Mombi, who will represent Kenya at the World Half Marathon Championships, are based in Japan.  Both runners have attended high school in Japan. Currently Mombi is coached by Yoshio Koide (former coach of Naoko Takahashi) and runs for his team, Aruze, while Mogusu runs for Yamanashi Gakuin University.  After graduation in March of 2009, Mogusu will join the track team sponsored by Aidem. 

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Men

Name/ qualifying performance
Tetsuo Nishimura Third in JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Champs
Yukihiro Kitaoka Fourth in JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Champs
Yusei Nakao  Second in Sendai Half Marathon
Kazuo Ietani  Third in Sendai Half Marathon
Masato Kihara  Fifth in Sapporo Half Marathon

Women

Name/ qualifying performance
Yukiko Akaba  First in JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Champs
Chisato Osaki  Second in Sapporo Half Marathon
Miki Ohira  Fourth in Sapporo Half Marathon
Yuko Machida  Third in Sendai Half Marathon