Sprinter Cambridge edges Yamagata for 100-meter title at nationals

Kyodo

Aska Cambridge captured his first Japan national championships title on Saturday, recovering from a slow start in the men’s 100 meters to overhaul Ryota Yamagata in the final meters and win by just 0.01 of a second.

The Jamaica-born Cambridge ran 10.16 seconds in the rain at Paloma Mizuho Stadium, with Yoshihide Kiryu in a relatively distant third (10.31). Kiryu, who has already surpassed the Japan Association of Athletics Federations standard time, only needed to finish in the top three to book his spot in Rio, too.

“I was a bit slow at the start, but wasn’t left too far behind, I’m glad I could keep my composure,” said the 23-year-old Cambridge who will now be tested against the best at this year’s Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“The start has been an issue all along, and I haven’t quite got it under control, so I’d like to master it.

“I thought I could win it at around 60 meters, I just tried not to choke.”

With a personal best of 10.10 seconds, Cambridge will need to continue improving if he is to go far in Brazil.

“It’s my first Olympics so I’ll enjoy it, will try to run in as many rounds as I can,” he said. “It’s important to keep on winning. If you’re winning the time will follow. I’ll be aiming to run below 10 seconds.”

The result was much more clear-cut in the women’s 100 meters, with Chisato Fukushima putting in a dominant 11.45 run to confirm her place on the plane to Rio.

“The start was not even decent, I have to thank my coach and team for sending me out in the best physical condition so I could push in the latter half of the race,” said the 27-year-old national record holder.

In a show of amazing determination earlier in the evening, 20-year-old Mie Prefecture native Anju Takamizawa overcame a mid-race fall, and a final-straight deficit to Chikako Mori, to win the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase in a championships record time of 9 minutes, 44.22 seconds — a time fast enough to get her to Rio.

“I tried not to get negative (after the fall) and I was determined to pursue Mori and win in the end,” said Takamizawa.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but the dream has now become reality, so now I need to change my mindset (for Rio).”

“All the runners will be fast at the Olympics, so rather than just aiming to get to the final, I’d like to see how much I can compete with the athletes from across the world. (I will) make it a race in which I can test myself with four years later in mind.”

With a throw of 58.35 meters, Risa Miyashita topped Yuki Ebihara by a small margin in the women’s javelin, but it is Ebihara, who had already met the Olympic qualification mark with a personal best of 63.80 meters at the 2015 Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki, who will travel to Rio.

“There was nothing good (in that performance), there was no power and I wonder what I was doing,” said Ebihara, clearly frustrated with her effort.

A monster 84.54-meter championship record throw, made all the more impressive due to the wet conditions, gave Ryohei Arai the national title in the men’s javelin.

His effort beat the Olympic qualifying mark and was short of both his season (84.66 meters) and personal (86.83) bests, but was more than enough to qualify him.

“I wasn’t too troubled by the weather, I’d have cared if it was pouring down but I’m totally fine with the how it is today.

“I had so many aspects to adjust to heading into the fourth throw and was losing some confidence, so I asked for the fans to clap their hands to get my spirit up again.

“I just didn’t think it’d go that far when I threw it.”

Also earning their spots on Japan’s Olympic team were Jamaican-born sprinter Julian Walsh in the men’s 400 and Keisuke Nozawa in the men’s 400 hurdles.