Yuki Yamazaki

Athlete Profile

    Japan Japan
    16 JAN 1984
Japanese race walker Yuki Yamazaki (Getty Images)

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
5000 Metres Race Walk 19:31.11 Sapporo 06 JUN 2009
10,000 Metres Race Walk 39:29.00 Tendo 27 SEP 2008
10 Kilometres Race Walk 40:20 Tokyo 01 JAN 2002
20 Kilometres Race Walk 1:20:38 Kobe 26 JAN 2003
35 Kilometres Race Walk 2:33:06 Wajima 15 APR 2012
50 Kilometres Race Walk 3:40:12 Wajima 12 APR 2009

Progression - Outdoor

5000 Metres Race Walk

Performance Place Date
2009 19:31.11 Sapporo 06 JUN
2008 19:57.37 Utsunomiya 30 MAY
2001 19:35.79 Toyama 23 SEP

10,000 Metres Race Walk

Performance Place Date
2010 40:46.90 Abashiri 17 JUL
2009 40:21.24 Fukagawa 10 JUN
2008 39:29.00 Tendo 27 SEP
2007 39:54.47 Akita 08 OCT
2006 40:55.25 Oita 30 SEP
2003 41:20.48 Yokohama 06 JUL
2002 40:56.5 Tokyo 20 APR
2001 42:05.34 Matsumoto 30 JUN
2000 43:24.27 Kakogawa 16 SEP

10 Kilometres Race Walk

Performance Place Date
2012 40:44 Kobe 19 FEB
2009 40:31 Kobe 25 JAN
2008 40:44 Beijing (National Stadium) 16 AUG
2003 40:37 Kobe 26 JAN
2002 40:20 Tokyo 01 JAN

20 Kilometres Race Walk

Performance Place Date
2017 1:24:02 Tokyo 01 JAN
2016 1:23:44 Kobe 21 FEB
2015 1:24:34 Tokyo 01 JAN
2014 1:27:45 Nagoya 01 JAN
2012 1:23:19 Saransk 12 MAY
2010 1:27:12 Hobart 13 FEB
2009 1:22:16 Kobe 25 JAN
2008 1:21:18 Beijing (National Stadium) 16 AUG
2007 1:25:07 Osaka 06 MAY
2006 1:23:09 Kobe 29 JAN
2005 1:23:57 Piacenza 02 OCT
2004 1:22:28 Kobe 25 JAN
2003 1:20:38 Kobe 26 JAN
2002 1:20:43 Kobe 27 JAN
2001 1:25:59 Kobe 28 JAN

35 Kilometres Race Walk

Performance Place Date
2012 2:33:06 Wajima 15 APR
2011 2:36:50 Takahata 30 OCT

50 Kilometres Race Walk

Performance Place Date
2016 4:05:43 Takahata 23 OCT
2015 3:43:40 Wajima 19 APR
2014 3:44:23 Wajima 20 APR
2012 3:41:47 Wajima 15 APR
2011 3:44:03 Takahata 30 OCT
2010 3:46:56 Wajima 18 APR
2009 3:40:12 Wajima 12 APR
2008 3:41:29 Takahata 26 OCT
2007 3:47:40 Kobe 15 APR
2006 3:43:38 Wajima 16 APR
2005 3:50:39 Wajima 17 APR
2004 3:55:20 Wajima 11 APR

Honours - 10,000 Metres Race Walk

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF/Coca Cola World Junior Championships 5 42:02.76 Kingston (NS), JAM 17 JUL 2002
2nd IAAF/Westel World Youth Championships 4 43:55.32 Debrecen 14 JUL 2001
IAAF/Coca Cola World Junior Championships 20 45:19.21 Santiago de Chile (E.Nacional) 19 OCT 2000

Honours - 20 Kilometres Race Walk

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Race Walking Cup 2012 23 1:23:19 Saransk 12 MAY 2012
The XXIX Olympic Games 11 1:21:18 Beijing (National Stadium) 16 AUG 2008
28th Olympic Games f DNF Athína (Olympic Stadium) 20 AUG 2004

Honours - 50 Kilometres Race Walk

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
15th IAAF World Championships 34 4:03:54 Beijing (National Stadium) 29 AUG 2015
The XXX Olympic Games f DQ London (The Mall) 11 AUG 2012
24th IAAF World Race Walking Cup 6 3:55:44 Chihuahua 15 MAY 2010
12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics f DQ Berlin 21 AUG 2009
The XXIX Olympic Games 7 3:45:47 Beijing (National Stadium) 22 AUG 2008
11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics f DNF Osaka (Nagai Stadium) 01 SEP 2007
10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 8 3:51:15 Helsinki (Olympic Stadium) 12 AUG 2005
28th Olympic Games 16 3:57:00 Athína (Olympic Stadium) 27 AUG 2004

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Updated  4 May 2010

Yuki YAMAZAKI, Japan (20km/50km Race Walk)
Born: 16 January 1984, Toyama Prefecture
1.77m / 65kg
Coach: Tsugumichi Suzuki
Team: Hasegawa Sports Facilities

Yuki Yamazaki, Japanese National record holder at the 50km Walk, completely dominates the event in Japan. Although Yamazaki was a soccer player in junior high school, because he liked running in Toyama Business High school he joined a track team. Having represented Toyama prefecture in national high school ekiden championships every year, Toyama Business High school is famous for their excellence in long distance running.

Yamazaki was endowed with superior endurance, but because he lacked basic physical condition as well as physical coordination, he could not find a place in the track team. In fact, Yamazaki was told by the high school coach that he had only two options – either become a track team manager or race walker. Yamazaki turned to Race Walking and found instant success.

In 2000, his junior year in high school, Yamazaki competed in the World Junior Championships, in Santiago, Chile, where he was 20th in the 10,000m Walk.  A year later, in 2001, he set a National high school record, 19:35.79, at 5000m Walk. Furthermore, while winning the National Championships 20km Walk, he recorded the third best junior mark in history, 1:20:43, which was also a high school record. Internationally, Yamazaki finished fourth in the 10,000m Walk at the World Youth Championships, in Debrecen, Hungary, thus joining the elite rank.   

In 2002, Yamazaki entered Juntendo University, the school well known for its excellence in track and field, and continued where he left off in high school. He improved the National junior record at the 20km Walk to 1:20:43 in 2002, and then to 1:20:38 in 2003. He finished fifth in the 10,000m Walk in the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston. Furthermore, in 2002 Yamazaki competed in his first senior event, the Asian Games. He was disqualified in the 20km Walk in Pusan, but at the 2003 Asian Championships, Yamazaki won the silver medal in the 20km Walk.

In 2004, Yamazaki started to compete at 50km also. First, in April, he won the 50km Walk in Wajima with 3:55:20, and was selected for the Olympic team. He was also selected to walk 20km in the Games. In Athens, although he dropped out of the 20km, Yamazaki finished 16th in the 50km. It was the highest finish by a Japanese walker at the Olympics at 50km.

A year later, in Helsinki, at the World Championships, Yamazaki finished eighth at 50km. It was the highest finish at the World Championships since the sixth place by Fumio Imamura at the 1997 Worlds. 

Yamazaki made a dramatic improvement on his personal best in 2006, a year he joined Hasegawa Sports Facility. In April, he set a National record of 3:43:38 at the 50km Walk, which made him the ninth fastest walker in the world in 2006. In 2007, he won the National Championships at 50km for the third straight year with 3:47:40, his second fastest time, and was thus selected to the 2007 World Championships team. 

In Osaka, until 30km, Yamazaki was contending for a medal, and after 30km for a top-eight finish. Unfortunately, he was misdirected by race officials and entered the stadium prematurely. Yamazaki was disqualified for crossing a finish line without completing the entire course. Had he finished in the top eight, he would have clinched a place in the Olympic team, and thus he was in the centre of media attention as a “Tragic athlete who missed making Olympic team because of an error by officials.”

However, Yamazaki never blamed organiser or officials. “I am disappointed for being disqualified, of course, but even without misdirection, I doubt I would have finished in the top eight,” he said. “I should have been careful about counting laps myself. I have nobody to blame but myself.”  

Undaunted, Yamazaki continued to train hard and the results followed early in 2008. In January, he won the 20km Walk at the National Championships for the first time in six years. Next, in April, he won the National Championships at 50Km for the fourth straight year. In the process he set a National record of 3:41:55. Thus, for the second consecutive Olympics, Yamazaki was selected to walk both 20km and 50km in the Olympic Games.  

The reason behind Yamazaki’s rapid progress in 2007 and 2008 is Tsugumichi Suzuki, who has been coaching Yamazaki since autumn of 2006.  Suzuki is a former distance runner, who competed at 10,000m in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  After retiring from competitions, Suzuki turned to coaching. His best protégée is Junko Asari, who won the gold medal at the women’s Marathon in the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart. 

Since Japan excels at distance running, Keisuke Sawaki, senior managing director of Japan AAF, reasoned that Japan should also excel at other endurance events like Race Walking.  So Sawaki decided to recruit a marathon coach to guide race walkers. As it turned out Kazuo Saito, who has been coaching Yamazaki passed away suddenly, so Suzuki was recruited by Sawaki to guide Yamazaki.    

However, the relationships between Suzuki and Yamazaki had a rocky start.  Initially, Yamazaki, who was already an established national class race walker, rebelled against Suzuki, who had more to say than just a training program.

“In distance events, proper training is only part of what is required to be a world class athlete. When the race is over, the subtle difference in how an athlete lives his day to day life can make a difference in the final results. I think this is also true in Race Walking. This is why I gave instruction about details of nutrition, as well as how an athlete should live day to day life,” explains Suzuki. It was after he was selected to walk at the 2007 World Championships, that Yamazaki realised he could not have good results if he kept on rebelling against coach Suzuki.   Their relationships started to improve.

“Since Yamazaki’s training volume before the World Championships in Osaka was double the volume before Helsinki, where he was eighth, I told him to stay with the leaders. However, since he was under my guidance for only six month at that time, I did not expect him to finish in the top eight, even without the lap miscount incident,” analyzes Suzuki.

However, staying with the leader from the start was a great learning experience for Yamazaki. He could now think about setting his sights on the medals. It is no longer a dream, but a goal.

With a medal as a goal, his training volume as well as its quality has increased further.  For example, in February of 2008, Yamazaki walked over 1430km, which led to a national record in April of 2008.  After clinching the team berth, Yamazaki trained even harder at high altitude in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and was ready to walk 50km around 3:40. 

However, Yamazaki came down with stomach problems just before the Olympics, and he was only seventh in 3:45:47. Although it was the highest ever finish by a Japanese walker at the Olympics, it was somewhat disappointing race for Yamazaki. 

After Beijing, Yamazaki and Suzuki set a goal of medaling at the London Olympics. Yamazaki further increased training, and in October of 2008, Yamazaki improved the national record to 3:41.29.  Six month later, at the national championships, he further improved the record to 3:40.12.

Looking back at the national championships race, Yamazaki analyzes: “I was able to keep 4:20 pace for each km against the head wind in the final stretch of the race and that was good. However, I really wanted to break 3:40.”  Although Yamazaki expressed disappointment, Suzuki was content with the pace Yamazaki was able to keep in the final part of the race.  “Next goal is to keep 4:15 pace for each km.” If successful, a time around 3:34-3:35 will be a realistic goal.  The World record is 3:34:14!

Yamazaki decided to concentrate on the 50km Walk in Berlin. His training had gone well and Yamazaki was ready to walk the distance around 3:38 at the World Championships. However, because he was in such a great shape, he started the race too fast, passing the first km in 4:18. Unfortunately, this speed led to problems for Yamazaki. Because he was so fast, Yamazaki was floating at times and he received warnings around 9km and 20km. Eventually at 25km, Yamazaki was disqualified. “My rhythm was very good. I knew I couldkeep on going, but I should have kept my cool. It was my mistake to start out so fast,” recalls Yamazaki showing his disappointment after the race in Berlin.

In April 2010, Yamazaki won the national championships at 50km Walk for the seventh consecutive time. Although his winning time was only 3:46:56, he was two minutes and 33 seconds ahead of second placed Koichiro Morioka. “Until last year, I kept on saying ‘walk faster’ to Yamazaki, but in Berlin, I realised that pursuit of speed is not enough. After Berlin, I realise the importance of proper walking form. So, for example, at the training camp in the US, I had 3 international level judges checking Yamazaki’s form,” said Suzuki.  Realising the difficulty of the event with judging, Yamazaki and Suzuki are making a next important step.  

Personal Bests

20kmW: 1:20:38 (2003)
50kmW: 3:40:12 NR (2009)

Yearly Progression
20km Walk/50km Walk: 2000-1:35:30/-; 2001-1:25:59/-; 2002-1:20:43(NJR)/-; 2003-1:20:38(NJR)/-; 2004-1:22:28/3:55:20; 2005-1:23:57/3:50:39; 2006-1:23:09/3:43:38(NR); 2007-1:25:07/3:47:40; 2008-1:21:18/3:41:29(NR); 2009-1:22:16/3:40:12(NR); 2010- - /3:46:56

Career Highlights
2000 20th  World Junior Championships (Santiago)  (10,000mW)
2001 4th  World Youth Championships (Debrecen)  (10,000mW)
2002 5th  World Junior Championships (Kingston)   (10,000mW)
2002 DQ  Asian Games (Busan)    (20kmW)
2003 2nd  Asian Championships (Manila)   (20kmW)
2004 DNF/16th  Olympic Games (Athens)    (20kmW/50kmW)
2005 8th  World Championships (Helsinki)   (50kmW)
2007 DNF  World Championships (Osaka)   (50kmW)
2008 11th /7th  Olympic Games (Beijing)    (20kmW/50kmW)
2009 DQ  World Championships (Berlin)    (50kmW)

Prepared by Ikumi Kodama for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2009-2010.

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