Eiki Takahashi and Yusuke Suzuki both surpassed the national 20km race walk record at the Japanese Race Walking Championships in Kobe on Sunday (15).
But only Takahashi, who won in 1:18:03, was rewarded with automatic selection for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August. Two-time Asian champion and former national record-holder Suzuki, who finished 10 seconds behind Takahashi, will have to wait to get the nod from the selectors.
On a morning when temperatures reached 13⁰C, a group of 11 athletes went through the first 5km in a steady 20:04. Takahashi, Suzuki and former national champion Isamu Fujisawa then upped the pace and made a break, passing 10km in 39:43.
Some 23 seconds behind them, a chase pack of five athletes, led by Hirooki Arai, maintained their tempo, taking little more than four minutes to cover each kilometre.
Takahashi and Suzuki then shook off Fujisawa’s challenge and were 10 seconds ahead of their compatriot at 15km, passing that checkpoint in 59:08.
Fujisawa was disqualified in the final few kilometres, while the leading duo continued to increase the pace out in front. Takahashi continued to turn the screw to the end, covering the final 5km section in 18:55 – the fastest of the race – to cross the line in 1:18:03, a personal best by 38 seconds.
Suzuki followed just 10 seconds behind, taking four seconds off his PB which at the time was a national record when he set it at this same meeting last year.
It meant that the top two finishing positions from 12 months ago were reversed, with Takahashi now moving to 18th on the world all-time list.
Arai finally broke clear from the chasing pack to take third place in a PB of 1:20:35. Two other men also finished inside the 1:21 mark as eight of the top 10 finishers set personal bests.
Former world junior bronze medallist Kumiko Okada won the women’s race with a PB of 1:31:57, finishing more than two minutes ahead of defending champion Rei Inoue.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF