Yokohama, Japan, Feb 28 (AFP)Ikumi Nagayama anchored the Japanese national team to win the Yokohama international women's Ekiden relay road race for a fifth year running with a new meet record on Sunday.
The Japanese women, with 17-year-old Yoshiko Fujinaga taking the lead only after the 3km mark in the first section, coasted to a start-to-finish victory with a time of 2:15:06.
The Ekiden race covers the same distance as a full marathon and is divided into six sections starting and finishing at the Yokohama stadium in this port city near Tokyo.
Romania's Constantina Dita, starting her 10km second section in eighth place, moved up to second with Denisa Costescu, Cristina Iloc, Luminita Talpos and Iulia Ionescu keeping the pace to finish runners-up in 2:16.45.
Third place went to the Kyushu local selection team in 2:18.22 as Asami Fujimaru overtook Bangkok Asian Games 1,500m silver medallist Wang Qingfen of China in the 5km final section.
The Chinese, the winners in 1989 and 1991, came in fourth in 2:18.42.
"I was able to run comfortably, because we had already a wide lead when I started," said Japan's second runner Chiemi Takahashi, 10km bronze medallist in Bangkok. "I hope this will be a good stepping stone to my next track race."
Nagayama, fourth in the 1,500m at the Asian Games, said: "Of course I felt pressure, but the other members are very good runners. I was never worried."
It was also a seventh victory overall for Japan.
See also The IAAF World Road Relay Championships 1998 web