Asami Kato (JAPAN) finishes in Edinburgh 2008 (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
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Japanese select 24 for Amman; another bronze on the horizon for junior women?

four members of the Japanese team, six in each race (senior men, women, junior men and junior women), for the upcoming 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Amman, Jordan (Saturday 28 March)  was selected on the basis of the results at the Chiba and Fukuoka cross country races. 

Historically, the junior women’s team has done best in the World Cross Country Championships.  In the last ten years, the junior women have won a bronze medal eight times - in 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000 and 1999.

One of the junior women’s team members, Asami Kato, who was fifteenth in Edinburgh 2008, will be running in the World Cross Country Championships again, but perhaps the best are Chise Shibata and Nanako Izawa, who finished first in Chiba Cross Country and Fukuoka Cross Country, respectively. 

Izawa may be the rising star.  She was only ninth at 1500m in the 2008 national inter-high school championships in August, but four months later Izawa turned in the fastest stage time in the 2008 inter-high school ekiden championships. 

The junior men’s team has finished fourth last year in Edinburgh.  Among the junior men’s team members, Akinobu Murasawa and Kenta Chiba have ran in Edinburgh last year, finishing 37th and 44th, respectively.

Murasawa did not run well in Edinburgh, but then finished 12th in the 2008 World Junior Championships; he has been superb lately. Not only he was the first Japanese in both Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country races, but he also excelled in Ekiden races this season. He was second to Paul Kuira, a Kenyan, in the 8km third stage in the 2008 national inter-high school Ekiden Championships in December and then recorded the stage record in the 2009 Inter-prefectural men’s Ekiden in January.

The senior team has not fared well since the 2006 edition in Fukuoka when the women’s team won a team bronze.  The hottest runners in the women’s team are Yuko Shimizu, who won Chiba Cross Country, and Tomoka Inadomi, who was second in Fukuoka Cross Country.

Shimizu also excels on the road. She was second fastest in the stage 3 of Yokohama Women’s Ekiden, and fourth fastest in the Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden. She also ran in the Chiba Ekiden last November.  Inadomi ran aggressively in Fukuoka Cross Country, and finished fourth in the 2009 Asian Cross Country Championships. 

Among the senior men’s team member, Naoki Okamoto, who finished ninth in the Asian Cross Country Championships, is considered to be a rising star. He was second fastest in the Chiba Ekiden last November.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF


Men - Makoto Fukui, Suehiro Ishikawa, Hiroyoshi Umegae, Yuta Takahashi, Seigo Ikegami, Naoki Okamoto  

Women - Yuko Shimizu, Tomoka Inadomi, Yuki Numata, Kazuka Wakatsuki, Korei Omata, Chisa Nishio   

Junior Men - Akinobu Murasawa, Kazuto Nishiike, Kenta Chiba, Yutaro Fukushi, Wataru Ueno, Shota Hattori

Junior Women - Nanaka Izawa, Chitose Shibata, Emi Kameyama, Asami Kato, Erika Ikeda, Aki Odagiri