The 2004 Fukuoka International Cross Country, which doubles as one of the selection races for the national section races for the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Brussels, Belgium (20/21 March 2004), takes place on Sunday 29 February.
Although the course will be different, Fukuoka is the host city for the 34th World Cross Country Championships in April of 2006.
Cristina Casandra (ROM), a former world 3000mSC record holder, who was third at 5000m in the World University Games, was 8th in Chiba Cross Country. After recording 19:15 for 6Km, the fastest 4th stage in the Yokohama Women’s Ekiden last week, she is back to cross country surface again in Fukuoka. She is joined by Eva Tomankova of Czech Republic, Nicole Jefferson of the US and Restituta Joseph of Tanzania.
Japanese selection for Brussels
As for the Japanese, Ayumi Hashimoto, Yoshiko Ichikawa and Miho Notagashira, who finished third, fourth and fifth respectively at 6Km in the Chiba Cross Country are also running. More recently Hashimoto recorded the second fastest stage, 15:36 for the 5Km first stage, in the Yokohama Women’s Ekiden last Sunday. In addition, Yumi Sato, Ayako Suzuki and Mika Matsumoto, who finished first, second and fourth respectively at the Asian Cross Country Championships, are entered in the race, and could book tickets to Brussels if they finish well in Fukuoka.
However, it will not be an easy task, for Miwako Yamanaka, fourth at the World Cross Country two years ago and her teammate in Daihatsu track team, Kazue Ogoshi, the fastest junior ever at the 20Km road distance, have also entered the race.
Ogoshi, who recorded 32:55 for 10 Km fifth stage, third fastest, in the Yokohama International Women’s Ekiden last Sunday, was sixth last year in Fukuoka. Yamanaka, who missed Osaka Ladies Marathon in January after twisting her left ankle, is back to improve her second place finish from the last year in Fukuoka.
Men’s race – reigning champion Wanjiri returns
Turning the attention to men, Michael Aish of New Zealand, who was 8th at 10,000m in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and Lezsek Biegala of Poland are invited from abroad. Samuel Wanjiru, a Kenyan who attends high school in Japan, won the 12Km race in the Chiba Cross Country. He is also the defending champion at Fukuoka Cross Country, having won last year from Shin-ichiro Okuda by one second.
Okuda, who was 10th in Chiba Cross country 12Km race, is also back. Kenta Oshima was fourth last year at 10Km race in Fukuoka, however, he has moved up a notch since then, having recorded 27:54.88 on the track 10,000m last fall.
Other top Japanese in the field are Yoshitaka Iwamizu, a national 3000mSC record holder (11th 2003 World Championships), Takayuki Matsumiya, the world 30Km road record holder, Tomoo Tsubota (18th 10,000m World Championships) and Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (bronze 10,000m 2001 World University Games).
Iwamizu finished fourth at 12Km race in the Chiba Cross Country two weeks ago, while Tokumoto won the 4Km race also in Chiba. Tsubota was fifth last year in Fukuoka Cross Country.
Makoto Otsu and Yoji Yamaguchi, who were fifth and sixth respectively in Chiba Cross Country are also running. Otsu knows the course well, having finished fourth and sixth respectively in the last two years.
Junior - Men
As for the junior men, Yuichiro Ueno, Yuki Sato, Yuki Matsuoka and Satoru Kitamura who finished first, second, third and fourth respectively in the Chiba Cross Country two weeks ago are also running in their attempt to clinch the spot on the World Cross Country Championships team. They have 5000m personal bests of 13:48.06, 14:02.82, 13:57.6, and 13:45.86 respectively. In the Asian Cross Country Championships a week ago, Kitamura, Sato and Ueno swept the top three spots. Yuki Sato is also a national junior high school record holder at 3000m.
Junior - Women
As for the junior women, Hitomi Niiya, Hitomi Miyai, Tomoka Inadomi, Misaki Katsumata and Saori Makishima, who finished first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively at the Chiba Cross Country are also running in Fukuoka. In addition Katsumata finished second in the Asian Cross Country Championships last week. Finally Yuko Nohara, a bronze medallist at 3000m in the last year’s World Youth championships should not be counted out.
Michael Aish (NZL)
Lezsek Biegala (POL)
Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) 1st Chiba XC long
Kazuyoshi Tokumoto 1st Chiba XC short course
Yoshitaka Iwamizu 4th Chiba XC long
Shin-ichiro Okuda 10th Chiba XC long
Makoto Otsu 5th Chiba XC long
Yoji Yamaguchi 6th Chiba XC long
Eva Tomankova (CZE)
Cristina Casandra (ROM)
Nicole Jefferson (USA)
Restituta Joseph (TAN)
Yoshiko Ichikawa 4th in Chiba XC
Hisae Yoshimatsu 9th in Chiba XC
Ayumi Hashimoto 3rd Chiba XC
Miho Notagashira 5th Chiba XC
Yumi Sato 7th Chiba XC; 1st Asian XC
Ayako Suzuki 2nd Asian XC
Satoru Kitamura 1st Asian XC; 4th Chiba XC
Yuki Sato 2nd Asian XC; 2nd Chiba XC
Yuichiro Ueno 3rd Asian XC; 1st Chiba XC
Hitomi Niiya 1st Chiba XC
Hitomi Miyai 3rd Chiba XC
Tomoka Inadomi 4th Chiba XC
Misaki Katsumata 5th Chiba XC; 2nd Asian XC