For the first time in its history, the Japanese Collegiate team took top honours at the Chiba International Ekiden today (23), the annual Ekiden relay covering the Marathon distance.
Ten international teams plus teams from Chiba prefecture and the Japanese Collegiate squad took part in the competition which starts and ends at the track stadium at Chiba Sports Center. The Kenyan team, third last year, was second, with defending champion Japan third.
Today’s outcome was a shocking development marking the first time a collegiate team finished of the Japanese national team in this ekiden. Their best previous finish was second last year. All six runners on triumphant squad ran well, while Kasumi Nishihara stage four best, was superb. Her stage time was nearly 40 seconds better than the next best time, giving her team the lead. When they were only 31 seconds ahead of Kenyan team with 7.195Km left in the race, Pauline Korikwiang was expected to pull out the victory. However, although she was indeed caught by Koriakwiang, Hanae Tanaka was able to pull ahead again and crossed the finish line 14 seconds ahead of her Kenyan rival. How the race unfolded:
Stage 1 - 5Km Men Yuichiro Ueno took the lead initially followed by Craig Mottram of Australia and Kenyan Vincent Yator. Soon Yator took the lead to push the pace and only Ueno was able to stay with him. For the next few kilometres Yator and Ueno took turns at the front. But when Ueno started his long drive to the finish Yator quickly fell behind. With 13:23, Ueno took this stage, followed by Yator six seconds behind. They were followed by JPN College team and the US team. Mottram, last year’s fastest stage one runner, was 26 seconds behind in fifth. “Next year, if I were to be given a chance to run again, I will try to set the stage best (13:22 by Masai),” Ueno said.
Stage 2 - 5Km Women Yuriko Kobayashi ran alone in front, while Risa Takenaka of the JPN Collegiate team caught Mercy Njoroge of Kenya. At the end Kobayashi extended her lead over Njoroge to 16 seconds, while the Collegiate team was just one second behind Kenya. Malindi Elmore of Canada moved her team up to fourth, ahead of the USA. “Ueno told me that he will be coming in around third place, so when he came in first, it gave me more power,” said Kobayashi.
Stage 3 - 10 Km Men During the early part of the stage Yuki Sato kept Japan in front, but soon Kenyan Titus Mbishei left the JPN Collegiate team behind and started to gain on the leader. Soon after 4Km Mbishei caught and passed Sato, who was unable to respond. Behind them, Ed Moran of the USA moved up to fourth, but soon Evgeny Rybakov of Russia passed Moran to move his team up to fourth. At the end Kenya was 28 seconds ahead of Japan, who in turn was seven seconds ahead of the College team.
Stage 4 - 5Km Women While Kenya continued to lead, soon after 1Km into the stage Kasumi Nishihara of the Collegiate team caught Tomoka Inadomi of Japan. Around 1.5Km into the stage Nishihara started to leave Inadomi behind. But that was not all. She started to gain on the Kenyan team. When Biyaki of Kenya missed the turn around point Nishihara passed Kenya to take the lead. It was the first time the Collegiate team took the lead in the Chiba Ekiden this late in the race. The stage ended with the Collegiate team in first, Kenya next 17 seconds behind and Japan third another 27 seconds behind. Yelena Zadorozdnaya of Russia did not run well and Kim Conley of the USA finished the stage just three seconds behind Russia. “Because I wasn’t too far behind the front runners, I decide to pass them all,” Nishihara said.
Stage 5 10Km - Men Four kilometres into the stage Tsuyoshi Ugachi bridged the 27 second differential and caught Kenyan Boash Mayaka. Then Ugachi continued to gain on Shota Hiraga of the Collegiate team and just before 9Km into the stage Ugachi took the lead. But Hiraga was not finished yet. He stayed with Ugachi for the next 500 metres before Ugachi gritted his teeth and finally pulled ahead. At the end of the stage, Ugachi was just one second ahead of Hiraga. Mayaka was third 30 seconds behind the leader. Behind them, Aaron Braun of the USA passed Russian Anatoly Rybakov to move into fourth. “I was able to see the front, so I wanted to take over the lead to contribute to the team’s victory,” Ugachi said.
Stage 6 - 7.195Km - Women The anchor leg started with Kenya 31 seconds behind Japan and the Collegiate team. However, with Pauline Korikwiang of Kenya having a 5000m best (14:45.98) more than 30 seconds faster than those in front, (15:29.58 for Shimizu and 15:54.18 for Tanaka), the question was when would Korikwiang take over the lead? The answer came 4.5Km into the stage. However, Japan’s Yuko Shimizu and Hanae Tanaka of the College team did not give up easily. The three ran together for a while, then, as Shimizu started to fall behind, Tanaka pushed the pace and re-opened the gap over Korikwiang to finish 14 seconds ahead of the Kenyan. “When Kenyan woman caught me, I expected to lose, but she was not that strong at the end,” Tanaka said.
Ken Nakamura assisted by Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF
Weather: Cloudy; temperature 15.2C; humidity 77%; wind 5.4m/s North North West Results: 1) JPN Collegiate 2:07:52 2) KEN 2:08:06 3) JPN 2:08:12 4) RUS 2:09:35 5) USA 2:10:54 6) Chiba 2:12:56 7) AUS 2:14:07 8) ITA 2:14:55 9) ROU 2:15:02 10) CAN 2:15:13 11) CZE 2:15:23 12) NOR 2:17:01