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Japan looking for Team Gold in Vilamoura

The Japanese World Half Marathon Championships team was selected based on the performances at the Japan Corporate team Half Marathon and the Sapporo Half Marathon.

Historically the Japanese women’s team has done well in the World Half Marathon Championships, having finished second three times in the team competition from 1999 to 2001. 

The fastest Japanese half marathon runner of the year is Takako Kotorida, who finished close second (1:08:35) to Noguchi at the JPN Corporate Half Marathon. This will be her third World Half Marathon for Kotorida, having finished 45th in 1998 and 25th in 2001. Kotorida is a national class 10000m runner (PB 31:41.32). She was second in the 2002 nationals and finished fourth in the 2002 Asian Games.

Mikie Takanaka first attracted attention when she finished second (1:08:32) to Mizuki Noguchi at the Miyazaki half marathon. Six months later in the Sapporo Half Marathon Takanaka attempted to run away from the field; she was caught by Catherine Ndereba at 18Km but still finished second in 1:09:13.  In 2003 Sapporo half marathon Takanaka again led in the early stage of the race; she finished third and selected for the team. She is running her second World Half Marathon, having finished 19th last year. 
 
For Yumiko Hara, her breakthrough came in the fall of 2001. She recorded 31:53.68 and 31:48.50 for the 10,000m and finished second (1:10:46) to Noguchi in the half marathon. Her success continued in 2002, having finished third in Miyazaki half marathon and fourth in the Japan Corporate team Half Marathon Championships. In the 2003 Sapporo half marathon Hara finished second, which qualified her for the team. 

For Risa Hagiwara, who is coached by Sachiko Yamashita (1991 World Championships silver medallist at the marathon), 2003 was a breakthrough year.  After winning the Kobe half marathon with 1:11:59, Hagiwara finished second in the Nagoya Women’s Marathon with 2:28:14.  Having finished sixth in the 2003 Sapporo half marathon, she was selected for the team.

Turning attention to the men’s team who finished second last year, the runner on the verge of breakthrough may be Kenta Oshima, who was third with 1:01:48, in the Japan corporate half marathon.  Oshima is a versatile runner, having recorded 3:45.14 for the 1500m and 1:02:53 for the half marathon in the same year.  In his most recent race, Oshima recorded a huge personal best of 27:54.88 at the 10,000m.   

Men 
Name   Personal Best Results in the selection race
Toshinari Suwa   1:02:36  Seventh, Sapporo Half Marathon
Wataru Okutani    1:03:48  Ninth, Sapporo Half Marathon
Masahiko Takeyasu  1:02:31  Twelfth, Sapporo Half Marathon
Kenta Oshima   1:01:48  Third, JPN Corporate Half Marathon Championships
Kazuyuki Maeda   1:01:49  Fourth, JPN Corporate Half Marathon Championships    

Women
Yumiko Hara   1:09:28  Second, Sapporo Half Marathon 
Mikie Takanaka 1:08:32  Third, Sapporo Half Marathon
Risa Hagiwara   1:11:55  Sixth, Sapporo Half Marathon     
Takako Kotorida   1:08:35  Second, JPN Corporate Half Marathon Championships

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