Koji Murofushi after spinning to victory in Athens (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Powell, Isinbayeva, Murofushi and more - Yokohama preview

22 September 2006  World record holders Asafa Powell, Yelena Isinbayeva and Jan Zelezny along with Japanese stars Koji Murofushi and Shingo Suetsugu are some of the headline attractions at the Seiko Super Track & Field Meet in Yokohama on Sunday 24 September.

Powell, Frater and Suetsugo in the 100

The Japanese adore World record holders. Thus it is natural that the 100 metre co-World record holder Asafa Powell was invited to run in Yokohama. The Jamaican, who has twice clocked 9.77 this year, will be challenged by training partner Michael Frater, the silver medalist in the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki; Patrick Johnson, the first Australian to break the 10 seconds barrier for the 100m; and Shingo Suetsugu, Japan’sbronze medalist in the 200m at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

Just prior to last weekend’s 200 at the IAAF World Cup in Athens, Suetsugu said, “Because three runners with sub-20 second personal bests are in the field, I want to be at least third.” He fulfilled his promise when his third place finish in 20.30, when he beat sub-20 performance Francis Obikwelu into fourth. His 4x100m relay teammates from the World Cup attest to the fact that Suetsugu is in the best shape of his life.

Murofushi vs Tikhon in the hammer

Because of Olympic champion Koji Murofushi, the men’s Hammer Throw is an important event in Japan. With the presence of the World and European Champion Ivan Tikhon in Yokohama, Murofushi vs. Tikhon is shaping up to be one of the premiere events this weekend.  Murofushi twice competed against Tikhon in September - at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart and the World Cup in Athens - and both time Murofushi won the contest with Tikhon second.

“This is my comeback season,” says Murofushi, who has remained undefeated in seven competitions this year. His third throw in Stuttgar was a foul, but land beyond 83 metres. “It left the possibility open for the next competition. I had some good throws but I also made mistake in other throws. I’d like to make some corrections and do better in my next competition,” he said in Stuttgart. Other contestants in the event are Finn Olli-Pekka Karjalainen and Vadim Devyatovskiy of Belarus, second and third respectively at the recent European Championships. Devyatovskiy won in Yokohama in 2005 while Murofushi won in 2003 and 2004. Steadily improving throughout the season, expectations are high for Murofushi this weekend.

With world leader and World Cup champion Kerron Clement topping the field, the 400m Hurdles would have presented a perfect opportunity for Japan’s two-time World Championships bronze medallist Dai Tamesue compatriot Kenji Narisako to challenge one of the best in the world. However, they will both be contesting the flat 400 instead. Thus the main opposition to Clement, this year’s U.S. champion, will be Jamaican Ian Weakley and Japan’s Yoshihiro Chiba.

While both Tamesue and Narisako will be running full-lap in Yokohama, the best long sprinter in Japan, 19-year-old Yuzo Kanemaru, could steal the spotlight. A 400m runner who dominated the domestic track & field scene as a high school senior last year, Kanemaru won the 2005 Super meet with a national high school record 45.47. He also won the Asian championships last year.

“I have not run good 400m this season,” Kanemaru said after his 4x400m relay leg at the World Cup. He is now a college freshman and this is his transition year, he said. “My problem is the last 200m as well as the transition between the first and the last half,” he said.

Javelin legend Jan Zelezny will be one of the featured athletes in the meet. The three-time Olympic and World champion will be competing for the final time in Yokohama stadium, and thus it will be a historic moment. He will be challenged by Germany’s Peter Esenwein, sixth in the European Championships, and Yukifumi Murakami, the best Japanese Javelin thrower.

The exhibition men’s Pole Vault will be contested between Brad Walker, the reigning World Indoor Champion and the World outdoor silver medalist, and the Japanese national record holder Daichi Sawano.  “I think Brad is the best vaulter right now,” says Sawano, who finished sixth at the World Athletics Final and then second at the World Cup a week later. “I went for the win in Athens. I am happy because it was the first time I was in such a position at the high level competition,” Sawano said in Athens. 

Isinbayeva, Simpson top the women's programme
 
After a long season, Olympic, World and European champion Yelena Isinbayeva failed to clear the opening height in the Pole Vault at the Super Meet last year, yet she was a very popular figure in the stadium and hopes to redeem herself this year. Her primary opposition includes Australians Tatiana Grigoryeva, the defending Super meet champion, and Kym Howe, the Commonwealth Games champion.  The best Japanese in the field is the national record holder Ikuko Nishikori. 

Sherone Simpson was the standout sprinter in the women’s 100m this season.  Although she did’nt win the 200m in Stuttgart and was very unhappy then, she completely dominated the 100m in both the World Athletics Final and the World Cup in Athletics. She will be challenged by Brigitte Foster-Hylton, the Commonwealth Games’ champion in the 100m Hurdles, and Brianna Glenn of the U.S.  The best Japanese in the field are national 200m record holder Sakie Nobuoka and the 100m national junior record holder Momoko Takahashi. 

The invited runners in the women’s Long Jump are Commonwealth Games champion Bronwyn Thompson of Australia, US champion Rose Richmond and the Japanese champion and the national record holder Kumiko Ikeda. Ikeda is the defending Super Meet champion, while Richmond finished second last year.

Finally, Yuriko Kobayashi, the bronze medalist at the World Junior Championships, will be contesting the 1500. In Osaka in May, she clocked a national senior record 4:07.87. Still just 17, Kobayashi is the most promising young distance runner in Japan, and will be challenged in Yokohama by Australian Sarah Jameison, the Commonwealth silver medalist, and the defending Super Meet champion Mestawat Tadesse of Ethiopia.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Selected list of invited athletes (JPN unless otherwise noted):

Men -
100m
Asafa Powell (JAM)
Michael Frater (JAM) 
Patrick Johnson (AUS)
Shingo Suetsugu

400m
Daniel Batman (AUS)
Yuzo Kanemaru
Dai Tamesue
Kenji Narisako

1500m
Mwangi Murigi (KEN) 
Fumikazu Kobayashi

110mH
Robby Hughes (USA) 
Masato Naito 

400mH
Kerron Clement (USA)
Ian Weakley (JAM)
Yoshihiro Chiba

HJ
Stefan Holm (SWE)
Ivan Ukhov (RUS)
Jamie Nieto (USA)

TJ
Danil Burkenya (RUS)
Dmitri Valukevic (SVK)
Kazuyoshi Ishikawa
Takanori Sugibayashi

HT
Ivan Tikhon (BLR)
Vadim Devyatovskiy (BLR)
Oli-Pekka Karjalainen (FIN)
Koji Murofushi

JT
Jan Zelezny (CZE)
Peter Esenwein (GER)
Yukifumi Murakami

PV (exhibition)
Brad Walker (USA)
Daichi Sawano

Women -

100m
Sherone Simpson (JAM)
Brianna Glenn (USA)
Brigitte Foster-Hylton (JAM)
Sakie Nobuoka
Saori Kitakaze
Momoko Takahashi

400m
Christine Amertil (BAH)
Asami Tanno
Mayu Kida

1500m
Sarah Jamieson (AUS)
Mestawat Tadesse (ETH)
Olga Komyagina (RUS)
Yuriko Kobayashi

400mH
Anastasiya Rabchenyuk (UKR)
Makiko Yoshida
Satomi Kubokura

PV
Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)
Kym Howe (AUS)
Tatiana Grigorieva (AUS)
Ikuko Nishikori
Takayo Kondo

LJ
Bronwyn Thompson (AUS)
Rose Richmond (USA)
Kumiko Ikeda
Maho Hanaoka

JT
Christina Scherwin (DEN)
Barbara Madejczyk (POL)