KAWASAKI — Yuriko Kobayashi zoomed to the finish line for a victory in the meet-concluding women’s 5,000-meter race on Sunday in the Japan Athletics National Championships.
On a rainy evening at Todoroki Stadium, the Hyogo Prefecture native separated herself from the front of the pack over the final two laps, extending her lead as the finish line approached. Her winning time was 15 minutes, 11.97 seconds. Nanae Kuwashiro placed second in 15.13.96. Other well-known runners, Kayoko Fukushi and Yoko Shibui, finished third and fourth, respectively.
Kobayashi, 19, made big improvements as a runner this season.
“I really struggled last year and it was the biggest turnaround for me to have won this race,” Kobayashi said. “I entered the race trying to have particular emotions as I could compete with such star runners (including Shibui and Fukushi).
“In last year’s tournament (nationals), I was like, ‘I definitely had to go to the World Championships,’ and then I failed. But this year, I wasn’t thinking that way and thinking like, ‘If I could go to the Olympics, that’d be a bonus.’ I guess it’s good for me to run relaxed.”
Shibui, who led for much of the race, felt pressure from the runners who chased her and then overtook her. “I felt the will to win from behind me today,” Shibui admitted. “I thought (the timing of their spurt) would come in the last five laps, but nobody came. Then, it might be two laps, and it was two laps. I wanted to win but my movement wasn’t very sharp today.”
In the always-popular men’s 100-meter final, Naoki Tsukahara triumphed for the third straight year. He won the race in 10.31 seconds, a solid time on a wet, chilly afternoon. Three-time Olympian Nobuharu Asahara, 36, was the No. 2 finisher, clocking 10.37 seconds.
“I’m pleased, frankly speaking,” Tsukahara said after his win. “I watched my semifinal race and figured my start wasn’t very good. But I was able to enter the final having fixed it. I and my coach were talking that the race would be decided in the last 10 meters. Considering the ability I have for now, I think I could put out everything I had.”
Other women’s winners on Sunday were Asami Tanno (400, 52.68 seconds), Chisato Fukushima (100, 11.48), Mika Yoshikawa (1,500, 4:12.79) and Yuka Murofushi, who picked up her seventh-straight national championships title in the discus with a top toss of 53.36 meters.
On the men’s side, Yuzo Kanemaru took the top spot in the 400 (45.69), Fumikazu Kobayashi was victorious in the 1,500 (3:49.96), while Yasuhiro Tago was 5 hundredths of a second behind him.
Yoshitaka Iwamizu won the 3,000 steeplechase in 8:29.75. Hikaru Tsuchiya triumphed in the high jump (2.18 meters).