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Koji Murofushi Japanese Athlete of the Year 2001

Koji Murofushi Japanese Athlete of the Year 2001
K. Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
26 March 2002 - The panel of forty experts on Japanese track and field have selected Koji Murofushi, a World Championships silver medallist, as the 2001 Athlete of Year, Japan.  It was announced in the April issue of the Track & Field Magazine of Japan (Rikujyo Kyogi Magazine).

Murofushi, a Hammer thrower who was ranked eighth, third, fifth and second in the last four years finally won the top honour.  He thus become the first thrower since Kazuhiro Mizuguchi, a Javelin thrower who won in 1989, to win the Athlete of the Year award. 

Murofushi finished just ahead of  Naoko Takahashi, the previous year's Athlete of the Year, in the close contest.  Murofushi collected 20 first place votes while 16 experts voted for Takahashi.  The third place went to the 400mH bronze medallist in Edmonton, Dai Tamesue, who collected four first place votes.

Of the ten athletes in the list, nine had competed in the World Championships in Edmonton, while five had set a national record. 

Here is the list of top ten Japanese athletes of the year and their major accomplishments for the year 2001.

Murofushi, Koji

Koji Murofushi captured a silver medal at the World Championships after an epic hammer throwing competition in Edmonton.  Other honors he won in 2001 are, gold medal at the East Asian Games and the national championships, which was his seventh.
Murofushi was almost undefeated in 2001, losing only once, in Edmonton. His major wins includes Rome Golden League and the Goodwill Games.  He improved the national hammer throw record thrice, the last of which was also an Asian record.  Murofushi's records are superb. Of the 67 legal throws he recorded in 2001, Murofushi threw over 80m 34 times. With an Asian record setting 83.47m throw, Murofushi moved up to the seventh best performer in history.

Takahashi, Naoko

The reigning Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi become the first woman to crack the magical 2:20 barrier in the 2001 Berlin marathon, when she completed a classic marathon distance in 2:19:46.  She thus become the first-ever female Japanese runner to set a world best at the marathon, an event which holds special place in the heart of many Japanese.  However, it was not the only record she set in 2001.  Takahashi set the national best of 1:41:57 at the rarely run 30Km in the 2001 Ome road race.

Tamesue, Dai   

At the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, Dai Tamesue won the bronze medal at the 400mH.  He thus become the first Japanese man to win a medal in the track event at the global championships.  However, that was not all.  In Edmonton, Tamesue who was fourth at the 400m in the 1996 World Junior Championships in Sydney, set national 400mH records at both the semi-final and the final in Edmonton.  He took the record down to 47.89. 

Tosa, Reiko  

In each of the global championships since the 1991 Worlds, except for the 1995 Worlds, the Japanese women have won a medal in the marathon.  In Edmonton, Reiko Tosa won a silver medal to keep the streak alive.  In her four marathon attempts, Tosa finished no worse than second.  After winning her marathon debut in 1998 Matsuyama marathon, Tosa finished second in her next three marathons.  

Shibui, Yoko  

Yoko Shibui made a stunning marathon debut in the 2001 Osaka Ladies International marathon.  Running alone from 22Km, Yoko Shibui set a world marathon debut best of 2:23:11, thus eclipsing the record, 2:23:44, set by Catherina McKiernan.  This performance clinched her a spot on the World Championships marathon team but Shibui still raced the 10000m and recorded a new personal best of 31:48.73.  In Edmonton Shibui finished fourth.

Aburaya, Shigeru  

In 2001, within the span of six months, Shigeru Aburaya established himself as one of the premier marathon runners in Japan.  Aburaya only ran three marathons in his career, but he is already the fifth fastest marathon runner in Japan, having finished third with 2:07:52 at the 2001 Lake Biwa Marathon. Five months later, at the World Championships in Edmonton, Aburaya finished fifth.  He was the highest placed Japanese.  

Ikeda, Kumiko  

Kumiko Ikeda, a bronze medallist at the long jump in the 2000 World Junior Championships, won a silver medal at the long jump and finished fourth at the 100mH in the 2001 East Asian Games.  In the national championships, Ikeda won the 100mH with 13.38, and finished second in the long jump with 6.78m, both collegiate records.  Ikeda competed in both the World Championships and the World University Games.  In Edmonton, she finished eleventh, while in Beijing, Ikeda won a bronze medal both at the long jump. Back in Japan, in the national inter-collegiate championships, Ikeda was a one-woman track team, having won both 100mH and long jump and led off the winning 4x100m relays. 

Yanagisawa, Satoshi 

A national record holder, Satoshi Yanagisawa finished seventh at the 20Km Walk in the World Championships in Edmonton.  It was the highest finish ever by Japanese at the 20Km Walk in the global championships.  In January, Yanagisawa won the national championships at the 20Km Walk for the second consecutive year.  He followed it up with a silver medal performance at the same event in the East Asian Games, before finishing seventh in Edmonton.

Naito, Masato

Masato Naito dominated the 110mH in Japan.  He improved the national collegiate record three times to 13.50, the last of which was also a national record.  Except for the international events like the World Championships in Edmonton, the World University Games in Beijing and the Super Track and Field Meet in Yokohama, Naito stayed undefeated.  In fact Naito stayed undefeated against the Japanese high hurdlers since May 12. Naito won the national championships, advanced to the semi-final in Edmonton, and qualified for the final in Beijing.

Imai, Miki   

In the 2001 Super track & field meet in Yokohama Miki Imai jumped 1.96m to eclipse the Japanese women's high jump record, which had stood at 1.95m since 1987. Imai also tied the national indoor high jump record of 1.91m in Stockholm in February.  In May, Imai won the East Asian Games.  It was the first gold medal in the women's field event in the East Asian Games by  Japanese.  In June, Imai won the national championships for the fourth time and competed in the World Championships in Edmonton.  In all, Imai jumped better than 1.90m in six occasions in 2001. She had attempted the national record height four times before succeeding in Yokohama.