Call it “Running Samurai” or “Nadeshiko Runners.”
Whatever the name, the Japan Association of Athletics Federations launched its national marathon teams on April 1 to try to end Japan’s Olympic drought and win some medals in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
“The gap between the world record and the Japanese record has been getting bigger in marathon,” said Katsumi Sakai, vice president of the JAAF strengthening committee. “We have decided to organize the national team to train them and give them total support. Our goal is to win medals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.”
Yuki Kawauchi, who has competed in two world championships, and Kohei Matsumura, who had the best time (2:08.09) among Japanese runners in the Tokyo Marathon in February, are included in the 12-man men’s squad.
Mizuki Noguchi, the gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Games, and Kayoko Fukushi, who took the bronze at the 2013 world championships in Moscow, made the women’s team along with seven others.
The men’s team is scheduled to have a 10-day training camp in August, September and next March at domestic venues while the women will have a monthlong training session in June in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Since Naoko Takahashi (2000 Sydney) and Noguchi won the gold medal at back-to-back Olympics, Japanese women have never finished better than 12th at the Summer Games. As for the men, they have been out of the medals since Koichi Morishita took the silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, although three others finished in top six over the last five Olympics.
Men’s national team: Suehiro Ishikawa, Masato Imai, Yuki Kawauchi, Hirokatsu Kurosaki, Koji Kobayashi, Masanori Sakai, Satoru Sasaki, Kentaro Nakamoto, Hiroyuki Horibata, Kazuhiro Maeda, Kohei Matsumura, Chihiro Miyawaki
Women’s national team: Mai Ito, Ryoko Kizaki, Risa Shigetomo, Tomomi Tanaka, Mizuki Noguchi, Eri Hayakawa, Kayoko Fukushi, Sairi Maeda, Yuko Watanabe