On the strength of two teenagers – Patrick Mutunga Mwikya and Edwin Mokua - who ran two 10km stages, Kenya won the 2011 Chiba International Ekiden on Wednesday (23), a national holiday in Japan.
It was Kenya’s first victory in the Chiba Ekiden since the event became a mixed men’s and women’s race in 2007. Twelve teams – ten national teams along with a Japanese Collegiate team and a Chiba Prefecture team – contested the six-stage marathon distance Ekiden. The men ran the 5Km first stage, 10Km third stage and 10Km fifth stage, while women ran 5Km second stage, 5Km fourth stage and 7.195Km sixth stage.
The Kenyan men and Japanese women were superb, as attested by the fact that Kenyan men recorded the stage bests in all three men’s stages, while Japanese women recorded stage bests in all three women’s stages.
The big stars for the Kenyan team were Mwikya and Mokua, who ran the third and fifth 10Km stages, respectively. The 17-year-old Mwikya, the 2011 World Youth Championships silver medalist at 3000m as well as 2011 World Cross Country junior bronze medallist, was the fastest in the third stage. He clocked a stage record 28:08, 34 seconds faster than the next fastest runner. Mokua was even more impressive. He covered the hilly 10Km fifth stage in 27:43, also a stage record and more than a minute faster than the next fastest unner for the stage, Tetsuya Yoroizaka, a 27:44 10,000m runner, who ran 28:47.
Kenya’s 2:04:40 winning time was a new Chiba Ekiden record for mixed team races, bettering the previous mark of 2:05:27 set by an Ethiopian squad in 2008.
How the race unfolded -
Stage 1 (5Km Men):
Yuichiro Ueno of Japan led at the start, followed by Suguru Osako of Japanese Collegiate team and Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya, the 2011 World Championships sixth place finisher at 5000m. After 2Km, however, Longosiwa took over the lead; first Ueno and then Osako fell behind. Longosiwa started to pull away and finished the stage in 13:36. With 500 metres to go, Egor Nikolaev of Russia moved into second by passing Osako; he was followed by Robert Cheseret of the USA who also passed a fading Osako. Ueno, who was only fourth, apologised to the fans for not winning the stage.
Stage 2 (5Km Women):
Less than 2Km into the second stage, Kasumi Nishihara of Japan, the 2009 World University Games gold medalist at 10,000m, passed Kenyan Lidia Mathathi to take the lead. Risa Takenaka of JPN Collegiate team also passed KEN to move into second.
Stage 3 (10Km Men):
Early in the stage Kenyan teen Mwikya passed both the Japanese Collegiate team and Russia and started to close the gap on the leader, Japan’s Kensuke Takezawa. And 8.5Km into the stage, the 17-year-old passed Takezawa to take over the lead. Takezawa tried to stay close, but Kenya ended the stage with an eight second lead, with Russia third, 29 seconds behind, followed by the JPN Collegiate team.
Stage 4 (5Km Women):
Just after 2Km into the stage, Japan’s Yuriko Kobayashi caught and passed Kenyan Pauline Kahenya and ended the stage with a 29 second gap over the Kenyan. Hikari Yoshimoto of the JPN Collegiate team, 14th in the 2011 World Championships 10,000m, was another two seconds behind. “I was only thinking about the victory because of the defeat last year,” said Kobayashi, 2005 World Youth Championships silver medalist and 2006 World Junior Championships bronze medalist at 1500m
Stage 5 (10Km Men):
Kenyan teen Mokua started to close on Japan’s Tetsuya Yoroizaka immediately, and just over 2Km into the stage he took the lead and passed the 5Km point in an incredible 13:31. Although Mokua slowed because of multiple hills in the last half of the course, he still set a stage record and gave Kenya a 35 second lead over Japan. The JPN Collegiate team and Russia were next.
Stage 6 (7.195Km Women):
Hitomi Niiya of Japan, the 2005 World Youth Championships 3000m bronze medallist, steadily closed on Kenyan Pamela Lisoreng while Sayo Nomura of the JPN Collegiate team pulled away from Russia’s Natalia Popkova. Niiya was 12 seconds behind Lisoreng with 1Km to go, but that was as close as she would get to the leader. Despite setting a new stage record, Niiya fell 19 seconds short of victory.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 5Km 13:36 Thomas Longosiwa (KEN)
13:38 Egor Nikolaev (RUS)
13:38 Robert Cheseret (USA)
13:40 Yuichiro Ueno (JPN)
2 5Km 15:17 Kasumi Nishihara (JPN)
15:36 Risa Takanaka (JPN College)
15:48 Lisa Corrigan (AUS)
15:51 Elizaveta Grechishnikova (RUS)
3 10Km 28:08 Patrick Mutunga Mwikya (KEN)
28:42 Evgeny Rybakov (RUS)
28:53 Kensuke Takezawa (JPN)
28:59 Harry Summers (AUS)
4 5Km 15:46 Yuriko Kobayashi (JPN)
15:49 Hikari Yoshimoto (JPN College)
16:21 Elena Korobkina (RUS)
16:22 Kumiko Komiya (Chiba)
5 10Km 27:43 Edwin Mokua (KEN)
28:47 Tetsuya Yoroizaka (JPN)
28:55 Robert Mack (USA)
29:04 Anatoly Rybakov (RUS)
6 7.195Km 22:36 Hitomi Niiya (JPN)
22:52 Pamela Lisoreng (KEN)
23:46 Emily Brichacek (AUS)
23:50 Sayo Nomura (JPN College)
23:53 Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (USA)
After Stage 1:
JPN College 13:41
After Stage 2
JPN College 29:17
After Stage 3
JPN College 58:19
After Stage 4
JPN College 1:14:08
After Stage 5
JPN College 1:43:36
1) KEN 2:04:40
2) JPN 2:04:59
3) JPN College 2:07:26
4) RUS 2:07:56
5) USA 2:09:06
6) AUS 2:09:56
7) Chiba 2:11:55
8) POL 2:12:53