K. Ken Nakamura for IAAF
19 March 2001 - A 25 member Japanese world cross country championships team was selected from the top finishers of Chiba (Feb 18) and Fukuoka (March 4) Cross Country races. The more prominent members of the team are introduced below.
Historically, the Japanese junior womens team has done well in the World Cross Country Championships, having meddled in the team competitions every year since 1993. On two occasions - in 1993 and 1997 - the junior womens team took the silver medal. Naoko Sakata, who was 5th in the junior division at the 1999 Championships as a 16-year-old, holds the Japanese junior 3000m record (8:56.49) as well as the second fastest high school 5000m time (15:34.2). Sakatas best year was 1999 when she was national high school champion as well as national junior champion at the 3000m. Unfortunately injury troubled her much of 2000, and Sakata missed last years World Cross Country Championships. Recently, however, she has been regaining the fine form of 1999. After recording stage bests at the national high school ekiden championships (15:58 for 5Km) and Inter-Prefectural ekiden championships (12:59 for 4Km), she won both the Chiba and Fukuoka junior Cross Country races. In Ostend, she will be joined by Tomomi Tagao who finished second to Sakata in both Chiba and Fukuoka. Tagao was 20th in the World Cross Country Championships last year.
One of the most promising runners on the junior mens team is Takashi Otsu, a 17-year-old who has been running seriously for only two years. Although Otsu had trouble keeping up with his teammates training when he joined his high school track team two years ago, eight months later he was good enough to record a stage best in the national high school ekiden championships. The following year, in the national high school championships, he was fifth at the 5000m, after leading the race until 2900m. Later in the same year, he set a Personal Best at the 5000m, 14:10.06, which was fifth fastest 5000m time of the year by high school runners. This year has been the best year of his short competitive career so far. On February 11, he recorded 29:00 for the 10Km road race, a high school road best. Then on March 4, in the first cross country race of his career, he took the lead at 1Km and by 3Km he was alone at front; he won the junior 8Km race in less than perfect weather in 24:22. He will be joined by Naoto Kato, and Shuichi Fujii who were 64th and 42nd last year at the World Cross Country Championships respectively. Kato told Track & Field Magazine of Japan, "My goal in the Championships is to finish in the top 20." Fujiis claim to fame is that in the 2000 inter-prefectural ekiden, he became the first Japanese high school student to defeat Kiyoharu Sato, a premier middle distance runner in Japan. He was also 5th at 3000m in the World Youth Championships in 1999.
The senior mens short course team is led by Junji Konomi, a national champion at 1500m. Twenty-year-old Konomi has always been at or near the top throughout his track career, having finished third at the national junior high school championships at 3000m and second at the national high school championships at 1500m. In the short course, his team-mate will be steeplechaser Makoto Michiura, who was second at the national championships in 1998.
Ikuko Tamura, also 1500m national champion, leads the senior womens short course team. She is also a national record holder at 1 mile. Tamura is joined by Yumiko Okamoto, who is proficient at wide range of distances. In 1999, she was a collegiate champion at 1500m as well as being fourth at the half marathon in the World University Games. She was also a national high school champion at 3000m in 1995.
The senior womens long course team is led by Yoshiko Fujinaga, the junior race bronze medallist at the 1999 World Cross Country Championships. Fujinaga missed the last years edition in Vilamoura, because she chose to concentrate on track in the Olympic year. She is the 5000m national champion, and also ran the 5000m in the 1999 World Championshps in Seville as a high school student. This year, she was second in both Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country. In Chiba, she defeated Japans cross country queen Chiemi Takahashi, bring Takahashi her first defeat by a Japanese runner at this race. Chiemi Takahashi is a regular at the World Cross Country Championships, having run in all the championships from 1992 to 1999. Her best finish as a senior was in 1997 when she placed 17th. After missing last years edition, Takahashi is back again for Ostend.
Complete list of the Japanese team:
Junior Men 8Km
Naoto Kato First in Chiba Cross Country junior 8Km (24:14)
Shuichi Fujii DOB Feb 14, 1982 Second in Chiba Cross Country junior 8Km (24:18)
Takashi Otsu DOB July 15, 1983 First in Fukuoka Cross Country junior 8Km (24:22)
Ken-ichi Shiraishi Second in Fukuoka Cross Country junior 8Km (24:37)
Naoteru Shibata Third in Fukuoka Cross Country junior 8Km (24:37)
Miyuki Tatsuda Fifth in Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country 8Km (24:37, 24:44)
Junior Women 6Km
Naoko Sakata DOB May 1, 1982 First in Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country 4Km (12:51, 13:10)
Tomomi Tagao DOB Jun 29, 1983 Second in Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country 4Km (12:53, 13:16)
Hiromi Koga DOB May 28, 1982 Third in Chiba Cross Country 4Km (12:56)
Mikayo Udo Third in Fukuoka Cross Country 4Km (13:17)
Mika Matsumoto DOB Nov 24, 1984 Fourth in Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country 4Km (12:57, 13:18)
Emi Ikeda DOB Aug 29, 1983 Fifth in Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country 4Km (12:58, 13:18)
Junji Konomi DOB Sept 24, 1980 First in Chiba Cross Country 4Km (11:27)
Makoto Michiura DOB May 6, 1972 First in Chiba Cross Country 4Km (11:31)
Terukazu Omori DOB Sept 3, 1979 Third in Chiba Cross Country 4Km (11:33)
Nobuya Matsunaga DOB Nov 8, 1974 Third in Chiba Cross Country 8Km (23:36)
Yoji Yamaguchi DOB June12, 1975 Sixth in Chiba 8Km (23:41), first in Fukuoka 10Km (30:41)
Ken-ichiro Setoguchi DOB Dec 12, 1982 Fifth in Chiba 8Km (23:38), and third in Fukuoka 10Km (30:50)
Daisaku Arakawa DOB Nov 13, 1974 Fourth in Chiba 8Km (23:37), and Fifth in Fukuoka 10Km (30:57)
Ikuko Tamura DOB Sept 24, 1978 First Chiba Cross Country 4Km (13:03)
Yumiko Okamoto DOB Mar 28, 1978 Second Chiba Cross COuntry 4Km (13:04)
Yoshiko Fujinaga DOB Aug 15, 1981 Second in Chiba 6Km (19:28), second in Fukuoka 5Km (16:45)
Chiemi Takahashi DOB Feb 16, 1976 Third in Chiba Cross Country 6Km (19:36)
Yukari Kawai DOB Aug 19, 1981 Fifth in Chiba 4Km (13:18), Fourth in Fukuoka 5Km (16:59)
Miyuki Nishimura DOB Apr 16, 1980 Seventh in Chiba 6Km (19:48), ninth in Fukuoka 5Km (17:08)