Dwight Phillips of the United States going for gold medal during the men's long jump final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Daegu World champions Phillips and Montsho signed-up for Kawasaki - IAAF World Challenge

Reigning World men’s Long Jump and women’s 400m champions Dwight Phillips and Amantle Montsho head up a list of star names that will compete at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki, Japan on 6 May.

TheSeiko Golden Grand Prix is an IAAF World Challenge meeting.

Other Daegu 2011 medallists announced in the men’s programme are silver medallists Liu Xiang (110m Hurdles), reigning Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto (3000m Steeplechase), Lazaro Borges (Pole Vault), and bronze medallists Kim Collins (100m) and Guillermo Martinez (Javelin Throw), while in the women’s division 200m bronze and 400m silver medallist Allyson Felix and Danielle Carruthers, the silver medallist at the 100m Hurdles are the other standouts. The latter will have to contend with Michelle Perry, the 2005 and 2007 World champion at the sprint hurdles.

The meeting will feature eleven men’s events (100m, 800m, 110mH, 400mH, 3000SC, PV, LJ, HT JT, 4x100mR, 4x400mR) and seven women’s events (100m, 400m, 800m, 100mH, 400mH, LJ and 4x100mR).

Phillips who took a fourth World title in Daegu was the 2004 Olympic champion at the Long Jump and Kawasaki is set to be his opening fixture of the season as he sets out to recapture the Games’ laurels. Likewise Montsho whose best performance at the Olympics so far is 8th in 2008, has also yet to open her campaign.

Unfortunately, for the home fans Japan’s World Hammer Throw champion Koji Murofushi will miss the meeting which also includes a leg of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge. The 2004 Olympic champion is currently training in San Jose, USA and will not interrupt his training for the trip back to Japan.

However there will be notable Japanese participation at the meeting...

In the women’s 100m, Allyson Felix, the three time-World 200m champion will race against Japan’s Chisato Fukushima.  Fukushima, the national record holder at both 100m and 200m, may be the best Japanese sprinter in history.  And she is still improving rapidly and this past winter, Fukushima ran in the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul and destroyed the national indoor 60m record (improved from 7.40 to 7.29) in the heat of 60m. Further improvement of indoor 60m in the semi-final was anticipated as her coach said he expect to see time under 7.2 second. However, she came down with the flu next morning and thus was forced to withdraw from semi in Istanbul.

Fukushima is not the only Japanese hopeful in 100m.  Fukushima’s long-time rival Momoko Takahashi is also in the field. In high school Takahashi was the faster sprinter, but recently she is taking a back seat to Fukushima who is attracting all the attention from the media and the fans.  Incidentally, Felix has run the anchor leg in UCLA Drake stadium on April 14, but Fukushima is yet to run outdoor race this spring. Fukushima will also run the 4x100m Relays as the team will attempt to improve the national record (43.39) set last year in Kawasaki. The team practiced baton passes in January at Fukushima’s home track in Hokkaido.

Other featured Japanese athletes are Daichi Sawano, Yukifumi Murakami, and Asami Chiba, the national record holders at the Pole Vault, Javelin throw and women’s 400m, respectively.

Sawano will start his quest for a 6 metres vault with his new team, Fujitsu track team, but will first have to concentrate on beating Lazaro Borges, 2011 World Championships silver medallist. The young Japanese Hiroki Ogita, second in 2011 Asian Championships, and Takafumi Suzuki, 5th in 2010 Asian Games may also be ready to challenge Sawano.  

Murakami, 2009 World Championships Javelin Throw bronze medallist is determined to return to the podium at the Olympics, for he failed to qualify for the final in Daegu. His goals are two-fold.  First is to throw at least 82m during his first three throws and second is to throw long throws multiple times during the competition. Later in the season he hopes to throw 85m.  His main competition at Kawasaki is Guillermo Martinez, World silver medallist at Berlin as well as bronze medallist in Daegu. Young Japanese challenger Genki Dean is also entered the meet in hope of throwing the Olympic “A” standard. He threw 79.60m in the recent college meet.

Asami Chiba, formerly Asami Tanno, is returning to competition after maternity leave and will try and stay close to Montsho around the one lap of the track.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF