Tim Montgomery anchors home at the 2003 Penn Relays (Kirby Lee) © Copyright

P Johnson versus Montgomery - Osaka Preview

The 2003 OsakaIAAF GPmeeting will be held on Saturday 10 May at the Nagai stadium, the future (2007) site of the World Championships in Athletics. The men’s 100m and Hammer Throw are both especially anticipated from the Japanese point of view because of the local superstars, Shingo Suetsugu and Koji Murofushi.

In the men’s 100m, Australian Patrick Johnson who recorded 9.93 in Mito on 5 May, will face USA’s World record holder Tim Montgomery, who after a sluggish start ‘only’ recorded 10.04 for second place at high-altitude on 3 May in Mexico City.

"I just came off a race in Mexico City, which was 10.04, I had
an all right race and my shape is very good. Everything here should be fine," said Montgomery."This is my second race. I know that Maurice Greene has the record on the track (9.91). My goal is to beat his record on this track tomorrow and wipe his name off."

Despite his defeat Tim Montgomery, who was edged out by Shaun Crawford last year 9.94 to 9.95 in Osaka, is still the centre of attention, while Johnson’s rise into the world’s elite during the Australian domestic season and now in Japan, has brought only a passing mention in most previews of this meeting in Japan.  Johnson, who was the top news story in Australia earlier this week, must still show that his time was not a fluke.

"It was more a relief than anything and I'm glad to have put
Australia on the map in terms of sprinting," said Johnson "I've been knocking on the door. It's nice to get this out of the way, so now I can move on to the next level."

The other top international contender at 100m is Bernard Williams who finished second two years ago.

Turning our attention to the Japanese hopes, Shingo Suetsugu who recorded the personal best of 10.03 in the Mito meet is expected to crack the 10 seconds barrier soon. As his coach Susumu Takano, Asian 400m record holder, has repeatedly said since last year, “Sub-10 seconds 100m as well as sub-20 seconds 200m are imminent for Suetsugu.”

However, he along with others thinks that such a magical moment must happen at the right venue and this GP event with the national television coverage might just fit the bill.

Not to be outdone is Nobuharu Asahara, whose personal best at 100m is 10.02.  “I am sure everyone is looking for a sub-10 100m,” said Asahara last year after Suetsugu recorded 10.05, then the fastest 100m time by Japanese on the native soil. However, unlike Suetsugu, Asahara is yet to capture the form that led him to run 10.02 in the 2001 Bislett Games in Oslo. 

Although Poland’s Olympic and World Hammer Champion Szymon Ziolkowski has pulled out of the competition citing injury earlier this week, the men’s Hammer competition is still loaded with talents.

Hometown hero and Edmonton World silver medallist, Koji Murofushi is throwing well this year. Three years ago, Murofushi recorded the first 80m throw at the Osaka GP. Two years ago, when he took the silver medal in Edmonton, Murofushi opened the season with 82.23m in his home track in Toyata and then threw 82.59m at the Osaka GP. This year Murofushi opened the season with an even better throw, 82.36m at his home track. In that competition, for the first time in his career, all his throws were over 80m.

Last year Murofushi’s three time winning streak at Osaka GP was broken by Adrian Annus of Hungary. Annus, the 2002 European Champion as well the IAAF World Cup winner, is back again this year along with his teammate, Balazs Kiss, the 1996 Olympic Champion. Kiss finished only 8th last year but he recently won the Shizuoka International on 3 May. Other top contenders in the field are Andrey Skvaruk of Ukraine, and Aleksei Zagorniy of Russia who recorded a leading throw of 83.43m last year.  

The women’s Hammer field is also quite formidable. The reigning Olympic champion Kamila Skolimowska of Poland, the European winner Olga Kuzenkova of Russia, as well as the Commonwealth Games silver medallist Bronwyn Eagles of Australia are competing. Of the three throwers, Eagles has the best mark of the season, 71.12m. The best Japanese is the national record (66.27m) holder Masumi Aya, who has a best of 63.13m this season.   

The 400m field is also loaded with talent. In addition to the American Leonard Byrd who was the first fastest in the world last year, there is Jamaica’s Greg Haughton, and the newly crowned World Indoor champion Tyree Washington of USA. Last year Haughton finished a close second, while Byrd finished fourth. Interestingly Alvin Harrison is listed as a starter in both Osaka and the Modesto Relays, two meets on the same weekend.   

Kenyan runners living in Japan will most likely dominate the 5000m. For the last two years, Zakayo Ngatho who runs for Konica (film) team has edged out Julius Gitahi who runs for Nissin Foods. Since Ngatho is not entered this time, Gitahi most likely will be battling with Julius and Simon Maina (not family related) for the victory. There are two top Japanese - Toshinari Takaoka, a triple Asian record holder who won the 10,000m in Shizuoka, and Kazuyoshi Tokumoto who has openly declared he will go after the World Championships “A” standard.

Starting this spring Dai Tamesue, 2001 World bronze medallist at 400m Hurdles, has sought coaching advice from Remi Korchemny, the well respected former Soviet (Ukrainian) trainer. So far Tamesue’s season has been less than brilliant, having finished only fifth with 50.19 at Mt SAC Relays. However, after his first competition at Stanford Invitational at the end of March he said, “I am glad I came to the US to be coached by Remi. He taught me lot of fundamentals, some of which I had not given much thought to before. For example, Remi emphasises arm motion in running.”

In Osaka, Tamesue’s main competition will come from 2000 US Olympic Trials runner up Eric Thomas, who won with 48.61 at the Martinique IAAF GPII meet.

The men’s Pole Vault field includes Nick Hysong (USA) and Dmitri Markov (AUS), respectively the reigning Olympic and World Champions.

Turning again to the women’s events, top Americans Chryste Gaines and Kelli White, the runner up to Marion Jones in 100m and 200m respectively at the 2002 US Nationals last year, are expected to be the stars at 100m.

White has already been running well during the early season, having won the Stanford Invitational in a wind-assisted 11.04, and the Mt SAC Relays in 10.97, while Gaines won in Mexico city with 11.02 last weekend. The top Japanese will hope to be pulled along to fast times. They are Motoka Arai and Kaori Sakagami, both former national record holders at 100m. Arai still holds the national record at 200m. 

Many Japanese national record holders are looking for good competitions tomorrow, which will help them exceed the World Championships qualifying standards. Makiko Yoshida who set five national records at 400mH during the last two years is one such athlete. “There are not too many opportunity
to race 400m Hurdles” said Yoshida who is hoping to be pulled along by two top world rankers in the event, World Cup silver medallist Sandra Glover, who won the IAAF GP in Belem, Brazil last Sunday (4 May) with 54.69, and 1996 Olympic Champion Deon Hemmings.

The event in which the national record is most likely to be broken is women’s Shot Put, where Chinatsu Mori has already set national records both indoor and outdoor this year.  

Ken Nakamura and Agencies for the IAAF