News28 Feb 2013

Junior women carry Japan’s hopes for World Cross medal


Distance runner Miyuki Uehara of Japan (© Getty Images)

Thirty three athletes for the upcoming IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz have this week been named by the Japanese Athletics Federation.

Four runners have been selected for the senior men’s 12km race, while full teams of six runners have been named for the three other races. The team selection was based on the combined results of the Chiba (February 10) and Fukuoka (February 23) cross-country races.

Women’s teams have best chance of success

In the women’s 8km race the biggest name is Hitomi Niiya, winner of the Fukuoka Cross Country, who finished ninth in the 10,000m at the 2012 Olympic Games. A 3000m bronze medallist at the 2005 World Youth Championships, Niiya’s best result to date at the World Cross Country Championships was 13th in the junior race in both 2005 and 2006. As a senior, she finished 21st in 2011.

Other team members include the 10,000m silver and bronze medallists from the World University Games, Hanae Tanaka and Mai Ishibashi, and 2010 World Junior Championships 5000m fifth-placer Ayuko Suzuki.

The junior women’s team is even stronger. In seven of the last 10 editions of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Japan’s junior women have won the team bronze medal.

Miyuki Uehara, who finished eighth in the 3000m at the 2012 World Junior Championships, made the team by winning in Chiba and finishing fifth in Fukuoka. Saki Yoshimizu, a 1500m finalist at last year’s World Junior Championships, finished second in Fukuoka to make the team. Fellow 1500m specialist Yui Fukuda was fourth in Chiba and third in Fukuoka to qualify for the team.

Azusa Sumi, who will turn 17 in August, won the Fukuoka Cross Country to qualify for the team. She and World Cross team-mate Maki Izumida, who just turned 17 a month ago, will be eligible to compete at the IAAF World Youth Championships this summer.

Incidentally Izumida’s mother, Yuki Izumida, was a national class runner in the eighties, almost making the Olympic team at 10,000m in 1988. The final member of the junior women’s team is Nanami Aoki, who has a 5000m best of 15:45.57.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Senior men: Takumi Honda, Hiroyuki Ono, Wataru Ueno, Keigo Yano.

Senior women: Yukari Abe, Miho Ihara, Mai Ishibashi, Hitomi Niiya, Ayuko Suzuki, Hanae Tanaka.

Junior men: Tatsuya Hayashi, Yuki Hirota, Tadashi Isshiki, Yusuke Nishiyama, Kazuki Takahashi, Hideto Yamanaka.

Junior women: Nanami Aoki, Yui Fukuda, Maki Izumida, Azusa Sumi, Miyuki Uehara, Saki Yoshimizu.