/

Track standouts eager to end season on a positive note

by Kaz Nagatsuka

KAWASAKI — After a series of fierce battles throughout the year, all the participants surely have some fatigue. But still they gave their word that they’d push themselves to the max one final time in the 2009 season.

This opportunity arrives on Wednesday at Todoroki Stadium, where the 2009 Super Track and Field Meet will take place. Competition begins at 2 p.m.

A day earlier, notable track stars expressed their excitement about the competition, flashing big smiles during a news conference at a Kawasaki hotel.

This included two of the biggest names scheduled to participate in the meet: American sprinters Tyson Gay and Allyson Felix.

Gay, who finished runnerup to Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in the 100-meter final in last month’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin, arrived in Japan after clocking 9.69 seconds at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix last weekend. Gay’s time was the second-fastest 100 in history, equaling the time recorded by Bolt in the 100 final in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Bolt eclipsed that mark with a jaw-dropping 9.58 in Berlin at the world championships.

“My condition right now is pretty good. I’m a little tired as well. Traveling, etc . . . a long season . . .,” said Gay, who won the 100 and 200 golds at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka. “But my goal for tomorrow is just a victory.”

Meanwhile, Felix, who won her third straight 200-meter gold medal at worlds in Berlin, will also compete in the 100, not her primary race this time.

“I didn’t definitely focus on the 100 meters this year, but I just wanted to go out there having fun at this end-of-the-season meet. So that’s what I’m going to do,” the 23-year-old Felix said.

For the top Japanese athletes, such as Naoki Tsukahara, Masashi Eriguchi, Chisato Fukushima and Momoko Takahashi, it will be a rare opportunity to run with Gay and Felix.

Tsukahara and Eriguchi are considered to be rivals in the 100, seeking to become the first Japanese to run sub-10 seconds. Tsukahara said that he’s not going to just be aware of the 20-year-old Eriguchi, but try to make the race a meaningful occasion.

“I’m not going to particularly look at someone individually, but we have Gay as well, so hopefully it’ll be an opportunity I can learn something if there is something I can learn,” said the 24-year-old Tsukahara, who advanced to the semifinals in the 100 in Berlin.

Said Eriguchi: “Once stepping on the track, I’d like to do my best. So I’d like to clock between 10.0 seconds and the 10.10s.”

At worlds in Berlin, a new Japanese star was born. Yukifumi Murakami, who grabbed the bronze medal in the men’s javelin throw there, is expected to be embraced by the local track fans.

Asked if his life has changed after his medal-winning performance, the 29-year-old Murakami smilingly said that he gets much more attention and that’s why he wants to show another strong exhibition at Wednesday’s meet.

“I need to perform as a medalist,” the 10-time defending national champion said. “I was able to show that Japanese athletes at throwing events can come through in the world that time. I’d like to prove that I am capable of doing the same in the future meets at this Super meet, too.”