Miwako Yamanaka of Japan - 4th, 2002 World XC women's long course race in Dublin (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
General News In Lausanne

Can Yamanaka win a first senior medal for Japan in Lausanne?

La Broye this weekend (2930 March) at the 31st IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Japan’s Miwako Yamanaka will have a chance to improve on her fourth place finish in Dublin last year.

Miwako Yamanaka was a precocious junior talent.  Not only does she still hold the junior high school record at 3000m (9:10.18, 1993), her record is over 14 seconds better than the second fastest time.  Internationally Yamanaka enjoyed some success as a junior. She was 7th at 3000m in 1996 World Junior Championships, and followed that up with 6th at 5000m and 3rd at 10000m in the 1997 World University Games. However, for the next four years, she was unable to fulfill her true potential. 

It all changed after Yamanaka joined the Daihatsu track team, where much of the training is done over the hilly terrain. Her breakthrough came late in 2001. Yamanaka recorded 31:53.7 for the 10000m in a solo run in November and then followed it up with 1:08:54 for the half marathon. Soon she was on a roll.

In February 2002, Yamanaka was third in the Chiba Cross Country and then won the Fukuoka Cross Country on March 3. Three weeks later, Yamanaka finished fourth in the long course at the World Cross Country championships in Dublin. Because of such a stunning breakthrough, her track season was awaited with much anticipation, especially because the race to be the first Japanese woman to break 15minutes and 31 minutes barriers for 5000m and 10,000m respectively, was on. Although Yamanaka recorded personal best of 31:41.33 at 10000m and 15:20.58 at 5000m, and then finished third at 10,000m in the national championships, her track season was thus a little disappointing.
Soon she was overshadowed by the success of Kayoko Fukushi who broke the 15 minutes barrier for the 5000m, and Yoko Shibui who broke the 31 minutes barrier for the 10,000m. 

However, in the winter of 2002/2003 when the ekiden season started, Yamanaka was on a roll again. In December's Women's Corporate team Ekiden Championships, Yamanaka ran the second fastest 10Km third stage. A month later on the hilly 6Km first stage of the inter-prefecture ekiden championships, Yamanaka set a new stage record of 18:44, and thus her first serious marathon in Osaka was awaited with much anticipation.

She was reported to be in sub-2:20 shape. Unfortunately, although she was among the leaders at halfway in 1:10:22, she dropped out due to twisted ankle sustained at the turn-around point on the course. However, the injury was not serious and Yamanaka returned to competition four weeks later in the Yokohama ekiden. In the (5Km) first stage, Yamanaka recorded the second fastest time, 15:29.  A week later at the Fukuoka Cross Country, Yamanaka finished second in the 6Km race, and thus was selected for Lausanne.  

Another member of the Japanese team is Kazue Ogoshi, who like Yamanaka runs for Daihatsu track team and coached by Tsugumichi Suzuki and Junko Asari (1993 World Marathon champion). She burst into the track and field scene in 1999, when she recorded the fastest 20Km road time (1:06:31) in the world by a junior. The following year after recording 31:58.95 for the 10,000m in July, in December of 2000, she further improved a junior 20Km record to 1:06:25. Ogoshi was then expected to become a force to be reckoned with, but unfortunately this dream is still unfulfilled. 

After a low-key 2001, she recorded 1:10:11 for the half marathon in December 2001. In 2002, Ogoshi finished 7th in both the Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country races and was thus selected for the World Cross Country Championships. In Dublin, she finished 36th at the long course race. On the track last summer, Ogoshi recorded three sub 31:50 10,000 metres races (31:46.31 in Boston, 31:46.92 in Mito, and 31:48.39 in the Japan Corporate track and field Championships).

Earlier this month in the Fukuoka Cross Country race, Ogoshi finished sixth at the 6Km course, and so gained selection for the 2003 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF