The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
Tochigi prefecture took top honours at the sevenstage 48 kilometre Inter-Prefectural Men’s Ekiden in Hiroshima on Sunday (23), their first victory in the event’s 16-year history.
“When Tsuyoshi Ugachi started the seventh stage, I thought we can win,” said Saito, coach of Tochigi team.
“I was bit worried when the fans along the course were telling me that Ueno is getting closer,” said Ugachi, who anchored the Tochigi team.
Tochigi always stayed close to the front. They were first after stage 1, second after stage 2, dropped to seventh after stage 3, but then took the lead after stage 4 thanks to brilliant run by Jun-ichi Shioya, and was second after stages 5 and 6. Ugachi then took the lead soon after the start of stage 7 and were never threatened after that.
Nagano finished second while home team Hiroshima came back strongly in the anchor leg to finish third after Tetsuya Yoroizaka passed 14 runners in the final 13Km stage. Yusuke Takabayashi of Mie did even better. He passed 16 runners in the anchor leg to bring his team, Mie, up to fifth place.
How the race unfolded:
Stage 1 – 7 Km (high school) A huge pack passed the first kilometre in 2:48 and 3.5 Km in 10:05. With 400m to go Murayama of Miyagi surged to leave everyone behind. However, he may have made his move too early as other teams started to gain on him and with only 50 metres left in the stage, Yagisawa of Tochigi passed Murayama and won the stage with 20:07. “I was not concerned when other runners made their move. I just made the move as I had originally planned,” Yagisawa said.
Stage 2 – 3 Km (Junior High School) Hyogo took over the lead from Tochigi, but Tochigi wasn’t finished yet. At the end of the stage (10K from the start), Hyogo lead with 28:58, followed by Tochigi with the same time. Pre-race favorite Nagano was 26th, 43 seconds behind.
Stage 3 - 8.5 Km There were some dramatic lead change in this stage. Early on Tochigi led, followed closely by Hyogo and Nagasaki. Behind them Akinobu Murasawa of Nagano was superb. 5Km into the stage Yagi of Hyogo started to drift from the leaders, but he still stayed close. 6.6Km into the stage, Nagasaki started to fall back. 7.4Km into the stage, Fukushima took over the lead. 7.7Km into the stage Murasawa moved up to third. Up front Fukushima led, followed by Hyogo. With 400m to go in the stage, Yusuke Kanagawa took over the lead but 200m later Hyogo moved to the front. Then Murasawa of Nagano, who passed 24 runners, challenged for the lead, but Yagi of Hyogo held him off. “All I was thinking of taking over the lead, so being second was very disappointing,” said Murasawa.
Stage 4 - 5 Km (high school) Agekura of Nagano ran very aggressively from the start, and 300 metres into the stage he took the lead, running for the first kilometre in 2:46. But Keita Shioya of Tochigi ran brilliantly and caught Nagano 2.9Km into the stage. At 3.5Km into the stage Tochigi left Hyogo behind. At the end of the stage, Tochigi led followed by Miyagi and then Nagano.
Stage 5 - 8.5 Km (high school) 3.6Km into the stage Kenta Murayama of Miyagi caught Ken Yokote of Tochigi, and 400 metres later, Murayama began surging away. But then Yokote worked his way back, only to have Murayama surge ahead again. But Yokote of Tochigi stayed close.
Stage 6 - 3Km (Junior high school ) Miyagi continued to lead followed by Tochigi and then a huge chase pack around 45 seconds halfway into the stage.
Stage 7 - 13Km Tsuyoshi Ugachi of Tochigi took over the lead from Miyagi. They ran together for a while, but then Hosina of Miyagi started to drift back. Yuichiro Ueno of Nagano moved up to third. 5.2Km into the stage, Ugachi lead Miyagi by 14 seconds, who in turn was 14 seconds ahead of Nagano. Around 7Km into the stage, Ueno moved up into second. With 5Km to go, Ugachi was 22 seconds ahead of Ueno and in the final kilometre extended his lead to give Tochigi the comfortable victory.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Weather: partly cloudy; temperature: 10.5C; humidity: 57%, wind: East South East 1.2m