The Japanese team for the 14th IAAF World Half Marathon championships in Edmonton, Canada (1 October), was selected from the top finishers of the All JPN Corporate Team Half Marathon Championships in March and Sapporo Half Marathon and Sendai Half Marathon in July.
Historically, Japanese women have done well in the World Half Marathon championships, especially in the team competition. In addition to winning the team title in the inaugural year, 1992, Japanese women’s team won silver medal five times, in 1993, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003, and bronze medal twice, in 1994 and 1997. Three Japanese women have also won an individual silver medal, Megumi Fujiwara in 1992, Mari Tanigawa in 1993 and Mizuki Noguchi in 1999. Noguchi, of course, became the Olympic marathon champion five years later.
The men’s team consists of Takayuki Matsumiya, Toshihiro Iwasa, Kazuo Ietani, Takamasa Otsubo and Yoshihiro Yamamoto. Matsumiya and Iwasa were the first two Japanese finishers in the All Japan corporate team half marathon championships in Yamaguchi, the race won by Daniel Njenga, a Kenyan living in Japan. Otsubo and Yamamoto finished twelfth and fifteenth respectively in the Sapporo Half marathon, the race dominated by Kenyans living in Japan. Ietani was fourth, the first Japanese in the Sendai Half marathon. Furthermore Ietani (1:01:38) and Otsubo (1:01:55) were also fourth and sixth in Yamaguchi. Yamamoto set his personal best of 1:02:03 in the 2004 corporate team championships.
The best runner on the team is Takayuki Matsumiya, the World record holder at 30Km on the road. Having recorded the world’s best of 1:28:36 in the 2003 Kumanichi 30Km road race, Matsumiya further improved the record to 1:28:00 in the 2005 edition of the same race. This season Matsumiya has also improved his personal best at 5000m, 10000m and half marathon. In March Matsumiya improved his half marathon best by two seconds to 1:01:32 in Yamaguchi. His previous best was 1:01:34 recorded in 2003, also in the corporate team championships. In April, Matsumiya won the 10,000m in the Cardinal Invitational in Stanford with 27:50.20 and later won the 5000m with 13:29.50 in the Golden Games in Nobeoka. Both were personal bests.
Toshihiro Iwasa, finished third in the 2005 corporate team championships in Yamaguchi, improving his half marathon best to 1:01:36. His previous best was 1:02:16, which was recorded in 2002. Iwasa is a versatile runner, having recorded a 2:10:17 marathon in 2002 and 13:26.78 for 5000m in 2003. Iwasa is coached by Tadasu Kawano, a renowned distance coach, who coached Takayuki Inubushi to the national marathon record in the 1999 Berlin race.
Kazuo Ietanihas a half marathon best of 1:01:30, which was recorded in 2001, a year he also ran 2:12:37 marathon. After two years that left lot to be desired, starting in 2004, Ietani started to excel at the half marathon. He was third in Marugame with 1:02:01, ninth in corporate team championships with 1:02:53, twelfth in Sapporo with 1:02:29 and fourth in Glasgow with 1:02:34. Then in 2005 Ietani finished fourth in Marugame in 1:02:08, followed by a third place finish in the corporate championships with 1:01:38.
The women’s team consists of Terumi Asoshina, Akane Taira, Hiromi Ominami, and Yoko Yagi. Asoshina and Taira were top two finishers in the corporate team championships, while Ominami and Yagi were sixth and seventh respectively in the Sapporo Half marathon.
In 2005, Yoko Yagi recorded two personal bests at both 10,000m and half marathon. She ran 32:26.17 in the Hyogo Relays and then further improved her personal best in Utrecht to 32:09.95. In the half marathon she was fourth in Matsue Ladies half marathon with 1:11:45 and then further improved her best to 1:11:02 in July in Sapporo. Her most recent race was 10,000m which she covered in 32:56.07.
Rising star on the team is Terumi Asoshina, 23, who was second in 10,000m at the Hyogo Relays with 31:23.55. It was a personal best by nearly half a minute. She was also second at 5000m in Oda memorial meet with 15:23.61, near a personal best (15:22.51). At the corporate team championships, her second half marathon of her career, Asoshina run away from the field at 8Km to win with a personal best of 1:09:54. Asoshina is coached by renowned distance coach Kunio Omori, and her teammate in Kyocera track team, Yumiko Hara, was sixth at the marathon in Helsinki.
Akane Taira, 22, who is coached by the 1991 World Marathon champion Hiromi Taniguchi, may be another rising star on the team. She finished fourth in the 2005 Miyazaki Half Marathon in 1:10:26 and was second in the corporate team championships with 1:10:29. This spring, she also improved her 10,000m personal best by over 30 seconds to 32:12.67. Her goal in Edmonton is to crack the 1:10 barrier.
The most accomplished runner on the team is Hiromi Ominami, 2:23:26 marathon runner, who also finished third at 10,000m in the 2005 national championships with 31:35.18; it was a PB by fifteen seconds for Ominami. Ominami, who was third in the 2002 Asian Games Marathon, fell at the start of the 10,000m in Helsinki and finished 21st. Although Ominami only finished sixth in the 2005 Sapporo Half Marathon, she won the last year’s edition with 1:08:45, which was nearly a minute personal best for her.
Two runners on the team have run in the previous edition of the World Half Marathon championships. In the tenth edition of the championships in Bristol, Ietani finished 24th, while Matsumiya, 53rd.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF