The teams to represent Japan in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in New Delhi on 3 October 2004 were selected mostly based on the performances in the Sapporo Half Marathon in July and the Corporate Team Half Marathon Championships, which was held in Yamaguchi back in March.
As at the full marathon, the women’s team is the stronger of the two squads. In the last six years, the women’s team has finished second four-times, from 1999 to 2001 and again in 2003. 2002 was an anomaly, as while the women’s team finished disappointing fifth, the men’s line-up came second. So don’t count out the men’s team prematurely.
The Japanese delegation for 2004 does not include any established stars, like Mizuki Noguchi, the reigning Olympic marathon champion, who won a silver medal in the 1999 edition of the World Half Marathon Championships. Noguchi also finished fourth twice, in 2000 and 2001. In her absence, the best woman on the team, perhaps, is Yuki Saito, who holds the national 10,000m debut best, 31:49.29.
Biographies follow below for each team member
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Yuki Saito: Second in the Sapporo Half Marathon with 1:09:43, Yuki Saito has a personal best of 31:41.49 at 10,000m, which was recorded at the 2004 National Championships where she finished fifth.
Previously in the 2003 JPN corporate team track & field championships Saito made a spectacular 10,000m debut when she ran 31:49.29 for the fifth place; it was the national 10,000m debut best. Born on Sept 25, 1980, Saito was two-time national inter-collegiate champion at 5000m, the distance at which her personal best is 15:28.11 from 2003. Saito runs for track team sponsored by Dai-ichi Life and thus coached by Sachiko Yamashita, 1991 World Championships silver medalist at the marathon.
Keiko Isogai: Second in the JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Championships with 1:10:20, Keiko Isogai was third in the 2004 Miyazaki Ladies Half Marathon in 1:10:15. Previous half marathon best for Isogai was 1:11:55 in 2003, while her 10,000m personal best is 32:50.42. Isogai, who was born on July 22, 1981, also runs for Dai-ichi Life track team and thus coached by Sachiko Yamashita.
Fumi Murata: Fourth in the Sapporo Half Marathon with 1:10:48, Fumi Murata has a half marathon personal best of 1:09:26, which was recorded in the 2000 JPN Corporate Half Marathon Championships. Born on March 13, 1975, Murata has a marathon personal best of 2:30:15 and the 10,000m best of 32:23.66.
Kei Terada: Third at the national inter-collegiate championships at 10,000m, Kei Terada was second in the Kyoto City Half Marathon with 1:10:53. Terada is a nineteen years old college student whose goal is to compete in the World University Games.
Masatoshi Ibata: Sixteenth in the Sapporo Half Marathon in July with 1:02:37, Masatoshi Ibata, who was born on August 20, 1972, has half marathon best of 1:00:55, which was recorded in the 1995 Tokyo City half marathon. He also has a marathon personal best of 2:13:26 from 2001.
Terumasa Okamura: Seventeenth in the Sapporo Half Marathon in July with 1:02:43, Terumasa Okamura, who was born on November 3, 1983, finished thirteenth in Karatsu 10 miler in February with 47:19. He is coached by Koichi Morishita, the 1992 Olympic Marathon silver medalist.
Yukinobu Nakazaki: Twenty-second in the Sapporo Half Marathon in July with 1:02:56, Yukinobu Nakazaki, who was born on April 4, 1979, was fourth at the 2004 Tokyo Marathon with a personal best. He has improved his marathon best from 2:13:26, which was recorded in the 2003 Hokkaido Marathon, to 2:09:28 in his third marathon. Nakazaki, who has won the half marathon in the 2001 national inter-collegiate championships, is also coached by Koichi Morishita. He is a captain of Toyota Kyushu track team and describes his goal for the year as “winning races.”
Yoshinori Oda: Fourth in the JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Championships with 1:01:58, Yoshinori Oda, who was born on Dec 5, 1980, has improved a 10000m best from 28:15.82 in 2003, to 28:03.92 in 2004. Oda’s future goal was to compete in the international championships, which he has realized by running in New Delhi.
Following two athletes were originally selected, but will most likely withdraw -
Kozue Saito: A teammate of the reigning Olympic Marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi at Globaly track team, Kozue Saito, who was born on Sept 25, 1982, was third in the JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Championships with 1:10:26. It was her personal best, having improved her previous best of 1:10:41 from 2002.
Takashi Ota: Second in the JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Championships with 1:01:50, Takashi Ota, who was born on April 27, 1976, has a 10,000m personal best of 28:26.04.