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JAAF names 32 Beijing Olympians

by Kaz Nagatsuka

KAWASAKI — A national team selection is usually like a preliminary skirmish in an Olympic year. But the Japan Association of Athletics Federations (JAAF) provided a pretty clear criterion in picking its delegates for the upcoming Beijing Games — dispatch those who can compete with the world.

The JAAF revealed 32 members — 22 men and 10 women including the marathon runners who had already been announced in March — for Team Japan’s track and field representatives on Monday, one day after the four-day Japan Track and Field National Championships wrapped up in Kawasaki.

Japan has been given 36 athletics spots for the Olympics, and the complete roster will be finalized after the Chuhei Nanbu Memorial meet this coming Sunday in Hakodate, Hokkaido.

National championship winners who have already made Olympic “A” standard since Jan. 1, 2007, such as Naoki Tsukahara (men’s 100 meters), Yuzo Kanemaru (men’s 400), and Dai Tamesue (men’s 400 hurdles), automatically made the berths.

Many of those who failed at the nationals but have “A” marks, such as Nobuhara Asahara (men’s 100) — making his fourth-straight Olympics — Shingo Suetsugu (men’s 200) and Kayoko Fukishi (women’s 10,000 and 50,000) also cracked the list.

Defending Olympic hammer champion Koji Murofushi, who will be competing in his third games along with Tamesue, had already been guaranteed a spot in Beijing by finishing sixth in last summer’s World Championships in Osaka.

“We’d like to dispatch the delegates that can contend well,” said Susumu Takano, a former 400-meter Olympian who now serves as the JAAF’s official and spokesperson.

“(At the nationals) in most of the events, those who had ‘A” marks got to win. Daichi Sawano (men’s pole vault) successfully leaped for 5.70 meters, and I believe he can go further by using a harder pole.”

Only Yukifumi Murakami (men’s javelin) made the team despite having a “B” mark among the 32. But Takano said Murakami, who competed in Athens four years ago, can be expected to perform well in Beijing.

The winner of the men’s 10,000 and 5,000 meters, Takayuki Matsumiya, grabbed his first Olympic opportunity.

“I’ve been aiming at an Olympics,” he said. “I’d like to make as big an effort as I possibly can to finish in a better place in both 5,000 and 10,000.”

The JAAF selected three well-known female long-distance runners in 19-year-old phenom Yuriko Kobayashi — who won the 5,000 — 10,000-winner Yoko Shibui, and Fukushi, the 10,000-national-record-holder who placed third in both events.