Eiki Takahashi at the IAAF World Race Walking Cup Taicang 2014 (© Getty Images)
Three of the men who featured on the bronze-medal-winning team from two years ago will again represent Japan in the 20km at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Rome 2016 on 7-8 May.
Eiki Takahashi, Takumi Saito and Isamu Fujisawa all finished in the top 25 in the 20km race walk in Taicang in 2014. Since then, they have all gone on to improve on their personal bests.
Takahashi set a short-lived national record of 1:18:03 to win the Japanese title last year. He successfully defended his title two months ago in a world-leading 1:18:26.
Fujisawa finished second to Takahashi at the National Championships, clocking a lifetime best of 1:18:45 to move to third on the Japanese all-time list. Fujisawa was Japan’s top finisher in this event at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, placing 13th.
Saito, who finished sixth at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013, improved his lifetime best to 1:19:44 last month in Nomi.
World record-holder Yusuke Suzuki will be conspicuous in his absence. The 28-year-old was Japan’s top finisher in Taicang and then set a world record of 1:16:36 less than a year later. But injury has prevented him from competing so far this year.
Kai Kobayashi and Satoshi Maruo, both with sub-1:20 PBs, round out the team for the men’s 20km. Both will be making their global championships debut.
Japan will also have strong medal chances, individually and as a team, in the junior men’s 10km. National junior champion Masaya Ishikawa will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Daisuke Matsunaga, who took silver in Taicang two years ago.
Matsunaga’s silver and the senior men’s 20km team bronze in Taicang were Japan’s first ever medals in the history of this event.
Japanese team for Rome
20km race walk: Isamu Fujisawa, Kai Kobayashi, Satoshi Maruo, Takumi Saito, Eiki Takahashi
U20 10km race walk: Masaya Ishikawa, Masatora Kawano, Ryutaro Yamamoto
20km race walk: Masumi Fuchise, Rena Goto, Ai Michiguchi, Kumiko Okada
U20 10km race walk: Sayori Matsumoto, Yukiho Mizoguchi, Maika Yagi