Kayoko Fukushi running in 2006 Marugame Half Marathon (Kazutaka Eguchi/Agence SHOT) © Copyright
General News Gifu, Japan

Team Mitsui-Sumitomo win again in Gifu

Taking the lead early in the 10Km third stage and never relinquishing it, Mitsui-Sumitomo Insurance team won today’s 2007 All Japan Women’s Corporate Team Ekiden Championships with 2:14:03. The six-stage Ekiden was contested over the out and back course in Gifu over the marathon distance, 42.195Km.

Having won five times (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005) in the past, Mitsui-Sumitomo thus became the first team to become six-time winners of what is the most important Ekiden championships for women.

Consistency was a key to Mitsui-Sumitomo’s victory this Sunday morning. Although only one runner – Rie Takayoshi – recorded the stage best, all runners from Mitsui-Sumitomo recorded top three-times in their respective stage. “All my runners run to best of their ability today,” said Hideo Suzuki, coach of Mitsui-Sumitomo. 

Dai-ichi Life, the team coached by 1991 World Championships marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita, finished second with 2:14:44, while Tenmaya, despite the absence of their big gun Naoko Sakamoto due to an injury problem, finished respectable third with 2:16:06.  The defending champion Shiseido, however, finished disappointing eleventh with 2:18:43.    

How the race unfolded
Stage 1 (6.6Km) 
After a huge pack of 25 runners led by Chiaki Iwamoto of the pre-race favourite Mitsui-Sumitomo passed 1Km in 3:21, the pace quickened. Two Km point was passed in 6:27.  Soon Misaki Katsumata of Dai-ichi Life surged ahead and covered the next Km in slightly above 3 minutes. With her pace, the pack had broken-up completely. Katsumata was followed by Iwamoto of Mitsui-Sumitomo, Mizuho Nasukawa of Aruze and Nanako Hayashi of Kyocera. Katsumata covered the 6.6Km first stage in 20:19, followed by Chiaki Iwamoto 11 seconds behind. “I did not feel any pressure today because I was ready,” said Iwamoto after the race.  

Stage 2  (3.3Km)
After 1Km, Mika Yoshikawa of Panasonic team moved up to third and then with 200m to go in the 3.3Km stage, Yoshikawa move into second place. She recorded the stage best, but Dai-ichi Life still led Panasonic by seven seconds, followed by Mitsui-Sumitomo in third by another two seconds.

Stage 3 (10Km)
Three teams – Mitsui-Sumitomo, Dai-ichi Life, and Panasonic – formed the lead pack initially, but at 3Km into the second longest stage, the national 10,000m record holder Yoko Shibui of Mitsui-Sumitomo broke away from the other two teams. Meanwhile, Philes Ongori of Kenya and Hokuren, who was eighth at 10,000m in the World Championships in Osaka, was quickly making up the ground on the runners in front of her. She covered the first Km in 2:56 and three Km in 8:51. In the process Ongori moved up from 22nd place at the start of the third stage to 10th by 5Km (14:49) into the stage.  Shibui of Mitsui-Sumitomo continued to lead, while Tenmaya, Dai-ichi Life and Panasonic were forming the chase group.  At the end of the third stage, 19.9Km in to the Ekiden, Mitsui-Sumitomo led by 14 seconds from Tenmaya, followed by Aruze and Dai-ichi Life.  Ongori moved her team up all the way to sixth place.  Covering the 10Km stage in 31:11, she missed the stage record by only one second.

Stage 4 (4.1Km)
With the stage best by Rie Takayoshi, Mitsui-Sumitomo extended their lead to 18 seconds. “I was determined to keep my team in the lead,” said Takayoshi after the race. Meanwhile 1Km into the stage, Dai-ichi Life moved into second place. 

Stage 5 (11.6Km)
In the longest stage of the Ekiden, Kayoko Fukushi, who 10th at 10,000m in the World Championships in Osaka, ran brilliantly as expected.  Starting the stage in dismal 24th place, Fukushi moved up to 20th place by 5Km and then passed another nine runners in the next 6.6Km to move her team into 11th place. 

Up in front Chisato Osaki, who was seventh at the 2007 World Road Running Championships, was running well and keeping her team, Mitsui-Sumitomo, in the lead. “Apparently, the wind was against us, but I did not even notice it. I am very happy to win. I want to win again next year” said Osaki, who was passed by Shiseido last year in the anchor leg.  Meanwhile Yukiko Akaba of Hokuren, one of the few runners in Japan who returned to the top form after having a baby, was superb.  She moved up to fifth at 4.2Km into the stage and then to fourth by 8Km. 

Stage 6 (6.595Km) 
Although Miyuki Ando of Dai-ichi Life cut Mitsui-Sumitomo’s lead by nine seconds in the anchor stage, it was not enough, and Mitsui-Sumitomo, who finished second last year returned to the top of the podium. Dai-ichi Life finished second 41 seconds behind. Tenmaya moved up to third in the middle of the stage and finished third. 

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Assisted by Akihiro Onishi

Weather:   temperature 8.8C, humidity  42%, wind  NorthNorthWest 5.7m/s 

1) Mitsui-Sumitomo   2:14:03
2) Dai-ichi Life    2:14:44
3) Tenmaya   2:16:06
4) Aruze   2:16:20
5) Hokuren    2:16:28
6) Nihon Chemicon  2:17:37
7) Panasonic   2:17:43
8) Kyudenko   2:17:44
9) Wacoal   2:18:26 
10) Denso  2:18:34
11) Shiseido  2:18:43
12) Suzuki   2:18:45

Best Stage:
Stage  / Distance / Time / Runner  / Team
1 6.6Km 20:19 Misaki Katsumata Dai-ichi Life
  20:30 Chiaki Iwamoto Mitsui-Sumitomo
2 3.3Km 10:10 Mika Yoshikawa Panasonic
  10:18 Kaori Urata Tenmaya
3 10Km 31:11 Ongori Philes  Hokuren
  31:30 Yurika Nakamura Tenmaya
4 4.1Km 12:44 Rie Takayoshi Mitsui-Sumitomo 
  12:47 Maya Iino Dai-ichi Life
5 11.6Km 36:42 Kayoko Fukushi Wacoal
  36:49 Yukiko Akaba Hokuren
6 6.595Km 21.13 Miyuki Ando Dai-ichi Life
  21:22 Miki Ohira Mitsui-Sumitomo