The Japanese team for the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland (30 March) was selected from the top finishers in Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country races.
The team of 26 runners consists of eight men, six women, six junior men and six junior women. Seven of the eight men’s team members, three of the six women’s team members, one of the junior men and one of the junior women have run in the previous editions of the World Cross Country Championships.
The men’s team consists of best of the young generation - Yuki Sato, national high school 10,000m record holder, Hidekazu Sato, national high school 5000m record holder and Satoru Kitamura, 2006 national collegiate 10,000m champion.
Hidekazu has trained briefly with Kenyans in Kenya, so he ought to know how to run with Africans. Yuki is generally considered to be the best collegiate distance runner in Japan. Makoto Tobimatsu, although his 10,000m best (28:32.45) is modest, has been running extremely well in cross country this year. He was the first Japanese in both Chiba and Fukuoka XC. Tobimatsu, whose best finish in the World Cross Country Championships so far was 67th, is shooting to be in the top 30.
Turning attention to women’s team, three of the team members – Aimi Horikoshi, Yuko Nohara and Kazue Kojima – were good cross country runners as a junior, having run in the World Cross Country Championships junior race. Kazuka Wakatsuki, a former middle distance runner, could be a surprise. Her win at the Chiba Cross Country was a surprise.
Akinobu Murasawa stands out in the junior men’s team. He won both the Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country races. He goes to Saku Chosei High School, where Yuki Sato is one of the alumni, is known for their extensive cross country training. Thus it is only natural that two of his high school teammates – Kenta Chiba and Hiroyuki Sasaki – are also included in the team. Shun Kurihara is the only one with the previous World Cross experience.
Historically, junior women have produced best results in the World Cross Country Championships. Although they were only fourth last year in Mombasa, the Japanese junior women’s team won a team bronze medal in 2006, 2005, and 2004. Best among the juniors are Atsuko Matsumoto, who won both the Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country last year as well as Fukuoka XC this year, Risa Takenaka, national junior 5000m champion who was second in both Chiba and Fukuoka XC, and Aya Mori, who won in Chiba XC. Matsumoto is the only Japanese junior woman runner with the previous World Cross Country Championships experience.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF