Yurika Nakamura seals the victory for Japan at the 1999 Chiba Ekiden (Yohei Kamiyama/Agence SHOT) © Copyright
General News

Tenmaya team wins Japanese Corp Women’s Ekiden Champs

 The Tenmaya, department store based in Okayama, Japan, the home town of Hitomi Kinue and Yuko Arimori, both Olympic silver medallists, won the 30th annual JPN Corporate team Women’s Ekiden Championships in Gifu on Sunday Dec 19. It was their first victory for Tenmaya, who finished second last year, at what essentially is the national Ekiden championship for women. 

“I had to wait a long time for this moment. I really wanted to win not just for us but also for the company and everyone who supported us,” said Yutaka Taketomi, 2:11 marathon runner and the long-time coach of Tenmaya.

After the first stage Tenmaya was in fourth place.  They moved down to sixth after the second stage, 9.9Km into the race, but move up to fifth after the third stage, 19.9Km into the race. They stayed in fifth through the fourth stage, but then Risa Shigetomo moved her team up to front 6Km into the fifth stage. 

“I just wanted to take the lead. The fastest stage was just a bonus,” said Shigetomo, who was instrumental to the Tenmaya’s victory. Shigetomo turned 16 seconds deficit into 22 seconds advantage by the end of 5th stage, 35.6Km into the race. Nobody threatened Tenmaya in the sixth and the final stage and they won convincingly.

“I was scared that other teams were gaining on me. The victory has not sunk in yet,” said Tenmaya’s anchor Urata. Incidentally, Tenmaya was famous for their marathon runners, for they sent a marathon runner to the last three Olympics, Eri Yamaguchi to Sydney, Naoko Sakamoto to Athens, and Yurika Nakamura to Beijing. However, they had not won this coveted Ekiden title until now. 

Dai-ichi Life finished second but more than a minute behind the winner. Toyota Industry, who won two years ago was third.  The defending champion Mitsui-Sumitomo finished fifth. 

How the race unfolded:

Stage 1 - 6.6Km
A huge pack passed the first kilometre in a relatively slow 3:20.  The pack was led by Yoshiko Fujinaga (Junior bronze, 1999 World Cross Country Championships) and Mizuho Nasukawa (2009 Tokyo marathon champion), but passing halfway point of the stage, Tomomi Tanaka of Dai-ichi Life started to push the pace to break up the lead pack. With little over a kilometre left, Nasukawa hit the front taking Tanaka and Ikuyo Yamashita of Mitsui Sumitomo with her. At the end Nasukawa held on to her lead followed by Yamashita and Tanaka. 

Stage 2 – 3.3Km
Many of the Kenyans on the team are running this stage. Felista Wanjuku of Universal started fast and passed 2Km in 5:48. Behind her Ann Karindi of Toyota Industry passed five runners to move up to second.  Wanjiku kept Universal in front, but Karindi, who covered the distance in record 9:56, was only 7 seconds behind.

Stage 3 – 10Km
The team’s big guns usually run this stage.  Before 3Km (9:08) into the stage, Kayoko Fukushi of Wacoal, who made up the 42 second deficit, took over the lead from Chika Horie of Universal.  Fukushi was supreme. She passed 5Km in 15:27, while the pack chasing Fukushi was 15 seconds behind at 5Km. They are Yoko Shibui (10,000m record holder), Misaki Katsumata, Kayo Sugihara, Yurika Nakamura, and Kazue Kojima. At the end Fukushi moved her team up from 8th to first, and turned 42 seconds deficit to 23 seconds advantage.  Fukushi covered the 10Km stage in 31:26.  Yukiko Akaba, scheduled to run next April’s London marathon was second fastest in the stage with 31:55.  Mizuki Noguchi, 2004 Olympic marathon champion, did not run well. She was only 20th fastest in the stage with 34 minutes for the distance.

Stage 4 – 4.1Km
Hiromi Koga of Denso and Yuka Kakimi of Dai-ichi Life started to close the gap on Wacoal, and with less than a Km left in the stage Kakimi took over the lead. Kozue Matsumoto of Wacoal tried to stay with Kakimi, but Kakimi slowly drew away from her.  Kakimi finished the stage first followed by Koga of Denso three seconds behind.  Matsumoto was another three seconds back.

Stage 5 – 11.6Km
Just before 6km into the stage, Risa Shigetomo of Tenmaya, who started the stage in fifth, 16 seconds behind, caught and passed the leader Azusa Nojiri, former cross country skier. Although Nojiri tried to stay with Shigetomo, Shigetomo slowly drew away from her, and soon Shigetomo was running alone.  Miki Ohira of defending champion Mitsui-Sumitomo was running well, but not enough to make any dent to Shigetomo or Nojiri’s lead.  Shigetomo was running away from all her competitions behind her and finished the stage first 22 seconds ahead of Nojiri of Dai-ichi Life. They are followed by Denso, Toyota Industry and the defending champion Mitsui-Sumitomo (1:06 behind). Shigetomo was fastest in the stage with 37:36 for 11.6Km. 

Stage 6 – 6.595Km
Kaori Urata of Tenmaya covered the first Km in 2:57 and her lead was never threatened.  Behind her, 2Km into the stage, Hitomi Niija of Toyota, one time high school phenom, moved up to third.  Niiya passed 5Km point around 15:30, but she could not make any dent into the Urata’s lead. Although Niiya got quite close to Miyuki Ando, running her last race, Ando held on to second. 

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

1) Tenmaya 2:14:35
2) Dai-ichi Life 2:15:36
3) Toyota Industries 2:15:46
4) Universal Entertainment 2:16:17
5) Mitsui-Sumitomo Insurance 2:16:23
6) Shiseido 2:16:48
7) Daihatsu  2:16:49 
8) Wacoal 2:16:54

Stage 1 6.6Km
1)  Mizuho Nasukawa (Universal)  20:46
2) Ikuyo Yamashita (Mitsui Sumitomo)  20:48
3) Tomomi Tanaka (Dai-ichi Life) 20:50
4) Yuka Izumi (Tenmaya)  20:54
5) Yoshiko Fujinaga (Shiseido) 20:57

Stage 2 3.3Km
1)  Ann Karindi (Toyota Industry)   9:56   New stage record
2)  Felista Wanjuku (Universal) 10:03
3)  Betlehem Moges (Denso)  10:04
4) Obare Doricah (Hitachi) 10:05

After Stage 2    9.9Km into the stage
1) Universal   30:49
2) Toyota Ind 30:56
3) Denso  31:07
4) Shiseido 31:10
5) Dai-ichi Life 31:12
6) Tenmaya 31:14

Stage 3 10Km
1)  Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal)   31:26 
2) Yukiko Akaba  (Hokuren)  31:55
3)  Mai Ito (Otsuka)  32:00
4) Ryoko Kizaki (Daihatsu)  32:02
5) Yoko Shibui (Mitsui)  32:06
6) Yurika Nakamura (Tenmaya) 32:08 

After stage 3   19.9Km into the stage
1)  Wacoal  1:02:57 
2) Denso  1:03:17
3) Dai-ichi Life  1:03:21
4) Mitsui  1:03:22
5) Tenmaya 1:03:22
6) Toyota Ind 1:03:22

Stage 4  4.1Km
1) Yuka Kakimi   (Dai-ichi Life)  12:43
2) Hiromi Koga (Denso)  12:50
3) Yukie Nagata (Toyota) 12:56
4) Yoshie Kurisu (Tenmaya) 12:58

After Stage 4   24Km into the stage
1) Dai-ichi Life   1:16:04
2) Denso   1:16:07
3) Wacoal  1:16:10 
4) Toyota Ind 1:16:18 
5) Tenmaya 1:16:20
6) Mitsui Sumitomo  1:16:51

Stage 5   11.6Km
1) Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya)  37:36
2) Azusa Nojiri (Dai-ichi Life)   38:14
3) Miki Ohira (Mitsui Sumitomo)  38:14
4) Kaoru Nagao  (Universal) 38:19

After stage 5     35.6Km from the start
1)  Tenmaya  1:53:46
2)  Dai-ichi Life  1:54:18
3)  Denso  1:54:36
4) Toyota  1:55:01
5) Mitsui-Sumitomo 1:55:05

Stage 6  6.595Km
1) Kaori Urata (Tenmaya)  20:39
2) Hitomi Niiya (Toyota)  20:45
3) Nami Tani  (Universal) 21:02
4) Saki Nakamichi (Shiseido)  21:17