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Updated 1 May 2010
Masumi FUCHISE, Japan (20km Race Walk)
Born: 02 September 1986, Hyogo Prefecture
1.61m / 45kg
Coach: Tadahiro KOSAKA
Team: Otsuka Pharmaceutial
The 2009 World Championships was a historic moment for Japanese walkers, for Masumi Fuchise finished seventh at Women’s 20km Walk in Berlin. It was the first top eight finish in the history of the global championships by a female Japanese walker. Along with the seventh place finish at 50km Walk in the Beijing Olympic Games by Yuki Yamazaki a year earlier, it was an outstanding achievement for Japanese walkers. After dismal performances by Japanese walkers in the 2003 World Championships in Paris, innovative and drastic plans for the national team of walkers were implemented. It resulted in steady progress and culminated in Beijing and Berlin.
Coincidentally, the turning point of Fuchise’s career was also in 2003. Fuchise, who was a junior in high school at the time, won both the 3000m Walk in national inter-high school championships in August with 13:29.40 and the 5000m Walk in the national sports festival in October with 23:00.90. Since her first competition in the race walk was in the spring of 2003, less than half a year after she started walking competitively, Fuchise became the best high school walker in Japan.
Because she always loved running, Fuchise joined the track team in junior high school and competed in middle to long distance events. Like all other junior high school distance runners in Japan, Fuchise hoped to excel in Ekiden. With such a dream in her heart, she enrolled in Suma Gakuen high school, a track powerhouse in distance running. Yes, she dreamed of excelling at distance running.
However, because of constant injury problems, Fuchise could not compete at all in her first year in high school. In her second year, when she could not be in the group of runners who was aiming for the inter-high school championships, Fuchise volunteered to be a race walker. “I want to compete. I want my parents to come watch me compete in the meet. So I figured, if I cannot compete in running events, perhaps I can in walking events. This is how I decided to try race walking,” explained Fuchise.
Mr. Shigeo Hasegawa, the coach of Suma Gakuen high school, begins the day’s training session with walking. With the purpose of attaining correct form and rhythm for running, athletes walk around the track with the rhythm of more than 210 beats per minute. This workout help build basics for running, but some athletes shows aptitude for walking. Fuchise was able to do only walking exercises in her first year in high school because of an injury. But it was this walking training that opened the door for Fuchise.
However, her senior year, 2004, turned out to be a bad year for Fuchise, the defending champion. She was disqualified in both the Hyogo prefecture championships that lead to inter-high school championships as well as the national sports festival. She thus finished the season without a title. “The frustration I felt at that time became the driving force to continue with race walking. My need to overcome the frustration was actually a blessing in disguise,” recalls Fuchise in an interview.
Fuchise enrolled in Ryukoku University in the spring of 2005. As she has done in high school, with balanced workouts which include walking as well as running, Fuchise improved her overall physical power and endurance. As she worked on rectifying her form, Fuchise increased her competitive distance and in January of 2006, she challenged 20km for the first time. She finished fourth with 1:36:50 at the national championships in Kobe and followed it up with the second place finish in Takahata in April with 1:33:59. In Takahata, Fuchise finished ahead of the national record holder Mayumi Kawasaki. In her third competition at 20km, the 2007 national championships in January, Fuchise became the first Japanese to crack the 1:30 barrier. She won with the national record of 1:29:36 and made the World Championships team for Osaka.
Fuchise failed to peak properly for the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, however, and finished a dismal 27th with 1:41:49. Furthermore, at the 2008 national championships in January, which doubled as a qualifying race for the Beijing Olympics, Kawasaki’s fast early pace (predicted finishing time of 1:27) shook up Fuchise’s rhythm. “I knew that I can not handle fast pace from the start, but thinking that I must do so, I stayed with Kawasaki’s pace. It was my mistake,” recalls Fuchise. Although Fuchise finished third with 1:31:36, only Kawasaki and Sachiko Konishi, who finished first and second, respectively in the race, were selected to for Beijing, while Fuchise narrowly missed making the Olympic team. To remind herself of her failure to make the Olympic team, Fuchise walked 20km on the day the final was contested at the Beijing Olympics.
With the 2009 World Championships in Berlin as her next goal, she added 30km workouts into her training program, which should strengthen her endurance. Furthermore, every day she started writing “I will never forget the frustration of not making the Beijing Olympic team,” in her training diary.
The 2009 national championships in January, which doubled as the qualifying race for the World Championships in Berlin, was the race of redemption for Fuchise. In the early part of the race, Fuchise let go Kawasaki and Konishi, the Beijing Olympic pair. Then she walked strongly in the last half of the race to pass Konishi at 14km and Kawasaki at 17km. Fuchise won with the national record of 1:28:03. She thus improved her personal best by 1 minute and 33 seconds and Kawasaki’s national record, set in March 2007, by 53 seconds, and was thus selected for the World Championships team. Two month later in March, she also won the Asian Championships in Nomi with 1:30:49.
After graduating from Ryukoku University in March 2009, Fuchise joined Otsuka Pharmaceutical in April. Otsuka Pharmaceutical track team is a well known track powerhouse. Takayuki Inubushi, who recorded the first sub-2:07 Marathon by a Japanese (2:06:57 in Berlin 1999) and ran in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and Michitaka Hosokawa, who ran in the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, are members of the team. As a member of Otsuka track team, Fuchise planned her own training schedule, and had them checked, modified and approved by Coach Tadahiro Kosaka, the head of Japan AAF Committee for Race Walking. She was also in the best environment for running, which has always been a part of her training regimen. With much better training both in quantity as well as quality under her belt, Fuchise was on a roll, despite the change in training environment.
Fuchise won a silver medal in the 2009 World University Games in Beograd with 1:31:42 before finishing seventh in Berlin. In both races, Fuchise walked strongly in the final stage of the race.
When she recorded 1:28:03 at the 2009 national championships, Fuchise said, “I am still far from the world class. I hope to record this kind of time in a summer race.” She also hopes to improve her race strategy. Fuchise, who has successfully cleared every obstacle in the past, has more tasks to accomplish for the future.
Although she scratched from the 2010 national championships in 20km walk in January, in March Fuchise won the Asian Championships in Nomi with 1:29:35. For Fuchise, who already attained a top eight finish in global championships, the next obvious goal is winning a medal. With the 2011 World Championships in Deagu and 2012 Olympic Games in London looming over the horizon, the progress of Fuchise is worthy of full attention.
20kmW: 1:28:03 NR (2009)
20km Walk: 2006-1:33:59; 2007-1:29:36 (NR); 2008-1:31:11; 2009-1:28:03 (NR); 2010-1:29:35
2007 27th World Championships (Osaka)
2008 3rd Asian Race Walking Championships (Nomi)
2009 1st Asian Race Walking Championships (Nomi)
2009 2nd World University Games (Belgrade)
2009 7th World Championships (Berlin)
2010 1st Asian Race Walking Championships (Nomi)
Prepared by Ikumi Kodama for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2010.