Hakim Sani Brown wins the 200m at the Japanese Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Osaka, Japan

Teen sensation Sani Brown secures sprint double at Japanese Championships

Double world U18 champion Hakim Sani Brown won the 100m and 200m at the 101st Japanese Championships, which concluded on Sunday (25) at the Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka.

The 18-year-old set personal bests of 10.05 (0.6m/s) in the 100m and 20.32 (0.3m/s) in the 200m. His mark in the shorter event equalled not only the Japanese U20 record, but also the championship record. It is also the fastest time in the world this year by an U20 athlete.

Sani Brown chopped 0.12 from his lifetime best to win his heat in a World Championships qualifying mark of 10.06, a time he then matched in the semifinals. The 100m final was held in heavy rain, and rising star Shuhei Tada, who was celebrating his 21st birthday that day, got off to a superb start. But Sani Brown passed Tada after about 60 metres and went on to win his first senior title in 10.05.

Tada was second in 10.16 and Olympic 4x100m silver medallist Aska Cambridge took third in 10.18. Cambridge’s Rio relay teammates Yoshihide Kiryu and Ryota Yamagata finished fourth and sixth respectively in 10.26 and 10.39.

After reaching the 200m semifinals at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, Sani Brown had hoped to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but an injury prevented him from achieving that goal. Having graduated from high school in March, he is now training alongside a group of top Dutch sprinters under the tutelage of Rana Reider before enrolling with the University of Florida in August.

“Even I’m surprised,” said Sani Brown. “I didn’t know I could run like this. I hope I get the chance to compete against top sprinters and break the 10-second barrier.”

One day after his 100m triumph, Sani Brown won the 200m in a PB of 20.32, narrowly missing the Asian U20 record by 0.03.

Kana Ichikawa took the women’s 100m and 200m sprint double in 11.52 (0.2m/s) and 23.62 (-0.2m/s), defeating national record-holder Chisato Fukushima, who has dominated Japanese women’s sprinting since 2008.

After representing Japan in the 4x400m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and at the 2014 World U20 Championships, where he took the silver medal, Takamasa Kitagawa will finally get the chance to represent Japan in an individual event at a global championship. The 20-year-old won the 400m in 45.76, having set a PB of 45.48 in the heats. Kentaro Sato was second in 45.95 while Kazushi Kimura was third in 46.02.

Although he won the continental title in 2011, 400m hurdler Takatoshi Abe had never won a national title until this year. He put that right this weekend, though, winning the one-lap event in 49.32 after setting a PB of 48.94 in the heats. Yusuke Ishida took second in 49.79 and Yuki Matsushita was third in 49.92.

“I wasn’t happy how I ran in Daegu and Moscow,” said 2010 world U20 silver medallist Abe, who finally appears to be fulfilling his potential after representing Japan at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. “I want to make the podium in London.”

The heats of the 110m hurdles witnessed surprising depth as nine men ran 13.70 or faster with Genta Masuno topping the round with a meeting record of 13.40, just 0.01 shy of the Japanese record. But Shunya Takayama was a clear winner of the final in 13.45, having set a PB of 13.44 in the semifinals. Olympian Wataru Yazawa was second in 13.61 while Masuno recorded the same time in third place.

Suguru Osako successfully defended his 10,000m title in 28:35.47 after covering the final lap within 60 seconds. The race started slowly with an opening kilometre of 2:55 and half way being reached in 14:29. When Takashi Ishida made a break with four laps remaining, Osako and Yuchiro Ueno were the only two athletes who were able to stick with him.

Ueno took the lead two laps later, but Osako made a move with 200 metres left and Ueno couldn’t respond. Ueno was second in 28:37.34 and Ishida took third in 28:39.00.

Japan-based Kenyan Ann Mwangi won the women’s 5000m in 15:19.62, but Rina Nabeshima, who crossed the finish line soon after in 15:19.87, was awarded the national title. Akari Ogasawara was the third Japanese runner to cross the line and the 16-year-old set a Japanese U18 record of 15:23.56, narrowly missing the World Championships qualifying standard of 15:22.

Ayako Oikawa for the IAAF