Yuki Sato in Daegu (Getty Images) © Copyright

Asian champs team berths on the line at Chiba Cross Country - Preview

The 47th annual Chiba Cross Country is scheduled to be held on Sunday 12 February in the Showa Woods Cross Country course. Usually, this IAAF Cross Country Permit event doubles as the qualifying race for the World Cross Country Championships. However, since this is not a World Championships year, it’s instead a qualifying race for the Asian Cross Country Championships and World University Cross Country Championships.  

Although no global event team berths are on the line, some of the best distance runners in Japan will be taking part. Yuki Sato, the fastest active 10,000m runner in Japan with a personal best 27:38.25, is scheduled to run in the men’s 12Km. Sato is perhaps the best distance runner in Japan currently, for he recorded the fastest stage in the most competitive stage of the New Year Ekiden a month and a half ago.  He is shooting for the Toshinari Takaoka’s national 10,000m record this coming track season. Sato’s main competition may come from Suguru Osako, the 2011 World University Games’ gold medalist at 10,000m. He also finished eighth at 10,000m in the 2010 World Junior Championships. Although his 10,000m best is quite modest 28:35.75, 20-year-old Osako is one of the most promising young distance runners in Japan.

Megumi Kinukawa, who ran the 10,000m at 2007 World Championships when he was just 18, will compete in the women’s 8Km. After a few injury prone years, Kinukawa has returned to top form in 2011 to record personal bests at both 5000m (15:09.96) and 10,000m (31:10.02). She contested both distances at the 2011 World Championships.  Kinukawa’s main competition may come from 20-year-old Ayuko Suzuki, who was fifth at 5000m in the 2010 World Junior Championships, and Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko who set the Ukrainian national Marathon record of 2:24:46 in the Osaka Women’s Marathon in the end of January. Although Suzuki was already a quite accomplished runner in high school, she chose not to go to one of track powerhouse colleges. Instead Suzuki is now is a student at Nagoya University, one of the most academically prestigious universities in Japan.

From the international perspective, the junior women’s 5Km race is perhaps of the highest interest, because Japanese junior women’s team always run well in the World Cross Country Championships. The event is loaded with talent. Yui Fukuka and Shiho Takeda, who were 7th and 8th, respectively, at 1500m in the 2011 World Youth Championships and Katsuki Suga, 6th at 3000m in 2011 World Youth Championships, may be the favourites. Suga is also a member of the bronze medal winning team at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships.  Tomoka Kimura and Risa Yokote also ran in the World Cross Country Championships last year. Other runner with international experience is Mika Kobayashi, who was sixth at 1500m in the 2011 Asian Championships, after winning the national championships as high school junior.  

The junior men’s 8Km race also has good talent. Kazuma Kubota and Ken Yokote ran in the 2011 World Cross Country Championships, while Yusuke Uchikoshi was 10th at 3000m in the 2011 World Youth Championships.

Four other events – men’s 4Km, Junior men’s 4Km and junior high school boys and girls 3Km – will also be contested in Chiba, but they are not the selection races for the international championships.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Invited runners:

Junior Men 8Km

Jack Williams (CAN)

Ryotaro Higami

Yuta Katsumata

Keisuke Nakatani

Ken Yokote

Kazuma Kubota

Yuta Koyama

Hideto Yamanaka

Yuki Hirota

Kenya Sonota

Yusuke Nishiyama

Yusuke Uchikoshi

Takumi Kobayashi

Men's 4Km

Hiroshi Ino

Yasunori Murakami

Daisuke Tamura

Aoi Matsumoto

Tsuyoshi Takeda

Atsuro Kikuchi

Men's 12Km

Yuki Sato

Hiroyoshi Umegae

Ikuto Yufu

Suguru Osako

Junior Women 5Km

Maria Bernard (CAN)

Yui Fukuda

Tomoka Kimura

Miki Sakakibara

Miyuki Gokan

Katsuki Suga

Eri Makikawa

Shiho Takeda

Shiori Yano

Risa Yokoe

Mika Kobayashi

Mao Kiyota

Women's 8Km

Aliaksandra Duliba (BLR)

Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko (UKR)

Natasha La Beaud (USA)

Rafaela Almeida (POR)

Carla Martinho (POR)

Megumi Kinukawa

Azusa Saito

Eriko Kushima

Ayuko Suzuki

Nanae Kuwashiro

Aya Takayanagi