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Japanese Team for the World Cross Country Championships in Dublin

Japanese Team for the World Cross Country Championships in Dublin
K. Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
19 March 2002 - The Japanese team for the World Cross Country Championships was selected based on the combined performances from the Chiba Cross Country race on 26 January and Fukuoka Cross Country race on 3 March. 

Historically, in the World Cross Country Championships, Japanese women’s teams have done much better than men’s teams, and junior teams have done better than senior teams; this year is not expected to be any different.  

Although Chiemi Takahashi, who represented Japan nine times in the World Cross Country Championships and was the top Japanese in many occasions, is missing from the team there is a new star this year.  Kayoko Fukushi, who must be considered as the most promising young runner in Japan currently, will be running long course in Dublin.

19-year-old Fukushi ran her first cross country race in Chiba in January and finished second despite falling around 2.3Km.  She also finished second in the Fukuoka Cross Country race.  The year 2000 was the breakthrough year for Fukushi, who finished third at 5000m in the national championships before finishing fourth in the World Junior Championships at the same distance.  The following year was even better.  After finishing second at the 5000m in the national championships in June, Fukushi was on a roll.  In the next four month, she set national junior records at 3000m (8:52.3), 5000m (15:10.23) and 10,000m (31:42.05).  In September, Fukushi completed the 5000m/10,000m double at the All Japan corporate team track & field championships.  In November, Fukushi was only two seconds behind Catherine Ndereba in the 10Km stage of the Chiba Ekiden. 

Another hot runner on the team is Miwako Yamanaka who finished ahead of Fukushi in the Fukuoka Cross Country race.  Yamanaka was a precocious talent, having set a still standing junior high school record at 3000m (9:10.18) in 1993.  As a university freshwoman Yamanaka won a bronze medal at 10,000m in the 1997 World University Games in Sicily.  However, she could not quite break into the very top until late last year when Yamanaka won the 2001 Kobe Women’s Half Marathon in 1:08:54, the time that ranks her sixth in the all-time Japanese list.  Next, in the 2002 inter-prefectural ekiden championships, Yamanaka outkicked both Yuko Kawakami, the national 10000m record holder, and Yoko Shibui, the world marathon debut record holder.  In her last competition, the Fukuoka Cross Country, Yamanaka defeated Fukushi who had been undefeated by any Japanese athlete during the preceding nine months. 

The third member of the team, Yoshiko Fujinaga is no stranger to the World Cross Country Championships.  In 1999 Fujinaga finished third in the junior division.  In the same year, she set a still standing national high school record of 15:22.68 for the 5000m and also ran the same distance in the World Championships in Sevilla.  In 2000, Fujinaga won both the national championships and the national inter-collegiate championships at 5000m.  Last year, she ran in the senior division for the first time and finished 25th.  Later in the track season, Fujinaga improved her 10,000m personal best to 31:47.82, and was second at the 10,000m and third at the 5000m in the World University Games in Beijing.  Still later in the same year, Fujinaga set a national collegiate record for the half marathon, 1:09:29. 

The pressure is on the Japanese women’s junior team, for they have medalled in the team competitions for nine consecutive years.  Perhaps their best runner, is Emi Ikeda.  Last year, under the scorching August sun in Kumamoto, with temperatures reaching up to 36.5ºC, Ikeda won the 1500m at the national inter-high school championships, recording the new high school record of 4:16.74.  Three days later she finished second at the 3000m.  In Ostend last year, Ikeda was 17th in the junior division, second among the Japanese. 

Other junior women runners with international experiences are: Chiaki Iwamoto who was fourth at 3000m in the 2001 World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Mika Matsumoto who was 18th in the 2001 World Cross Country Championships, and Kazue Awai who was 4th in the 2001 Asian Cross Country Championships. Awai won 5000m in the 2001 Japanese junior championships, and was 4th at the 3000m in the national inter-high school championships. 

The fourth member of the junior team, Ayumi Hashimoto is primarily 800m/1500m runner.  Hashimoto was second at 800m and fourth at 1500m in the national Inter-high school championships. 

The women’s 4Km team includes two runners with international experience: Hiromi Koga who was 35th in the junior division at the 2001 World Cross Country Championships, and Minori Hayakari who was 9th in 1990 and 8th in 1991 World Cross Country Championships junior division.  Koga was also second at 5000m in the Asian Junior Championships. 

The men’s junior team may not be strong as its women’s counterpart, but Masato Imai is one of the hottest high school runners in Japan currently.  Imai finished fourth in the junior division of the Chiba cross country race before winning the Fukuoka cross country race five weeks later.  His fourth place finish in Chiba was the best placing for this Japanese high school student.  Only two Kenyan runners and a college freshman Ryuji Sorayama finished ahead of him.  Imai has been very hot lately, having set a stage record, 24:34 for 8.5Km, in the inter-prefectural ekiden Championships in January.  Last year Imai finished 15th at the 3000m in the World Youth Championships, and in September set the 5000m best of 14:18.18.  Although he does not have a blazing kick, his ability to sustain fast pace may be unparalleled among his peers. 

Two other members of the junior men’s team have World Cross Country experience.  Naoto Kato was member of  the 2000 and 2001 junior teams, while Ryuji Sorayama was a member of the 2000 junior team. 

Women Long

                        Chiba CC,   Fukuoka CC

Kayoko Fukushi          2nd     2nd             4th 5000m, 2000 World Junior Champs

Kazue Ogoshi            7th     7th

Yoshiko Fujinaga                        6th             3rd junior, 1999 World Cross Champs

Miwako Yamanaka                 3rd     1st             3rd 10000m, 1999 World University Games

Kaori Yoshida           6th     ---             14th junior, 2000 World Cross Country Champs

Women Short 

Hiromi Koga             2nd     ---             2nd 5000m, 2001 Asian Junior Champs

Maiko Yamaguchi                 4th     ---

Minori Hayakawa                 3rd     ---             9th in 1990, 8th in 1991 World Cross Country


Junior Women 

Emi Ikeda                       2nd     1st             17th 2001 World Cross Country Champs

Misaki Katsumata                5th     3rd

Mika Matsumoto          4th     9th             18th 2001 World Cross Country Champs

Kazue Awai              ---     2nd             4th 2001 Asian Cross Country Champs

Chiaki Iwamoto        1st     5th             4th 3000m, 2001 World Youth Champs

Ayumi Hashimoto                 3rd     16th



Men’s Long 

                        Chiba CC,   Fukuoka CC         

Shin-ichiro Okuda               8th     5th

Makoto Otsu             ---     4th

Yuhihiro Motoda                 6th     13th            2nd 5000m, 2001Asian Junior Champs

Kenjiro Jitsui          9th     9th             1996 Olympian at the marathon                
Tomonori Watanabe               5th     11th            Marathon PR: 2:09:40

Yuki Yamamoto           7th     10th

Daisuke Kojima          12th    6th


Men’s Short

Junji Konomi            2nd     18th at 10Km

Koji Yamamoto           3rd     ---


Junior Men 

Masato Imai             4th     1st

Minoru Ikeba            8th     3rd

Ryuji Sorayama          2nd     5th     6th 5000m, 2001 Asian Junior Champs

Yu Mitsuya              ----    2nd

Yoshiyuki Inai                  6th     4th

Naoto Kato              5th     24th