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Fukushima breaks 200-meter national record to complete sprint double

Kyodo

Chisato Fukushima’s stellar national athletics championships continued in Nagoya on Sunday with the sprint star setting a new national record in adding the 200-meter crown to the 100-meter title she won less than 24 hours earlier.

Fukushima again dominated her competitors at the 100th edition of the Japan nationals, running away with a 22.88-second win for her sixth-consecutive 200-meter title, 0.58 seconds ahead of Ami Saito, who herself set a junior national record in finishing second.

The 27-year-old cut 0.01 seconds off her own 200-meter national mark, which she holds alongside the 100-meter best.

“I’ve spent a few years thinking I won’t get it (the new national record), and spent another few years listening to people tell me it’ll come. I tried to look strong by saying I’m not bothered about it but now I feel happy, even if it’s only by 0.01 of a second,” said Fukushima who will contest the sprint double in Rio.

“It’s a good springboard to take the next step.”

In the men’s 200 meters, Shota Iizuka blew away his rivals with a 20.11-second personal best around the Paloma Mizuho Stadium bend, booking his place in Rio in emphatic fashion. Kei Takase finished second and Shota Hara third.

Kenji Fujimitsu, who came into the championships with an Olympic qualifying time already under his belt, was a disappointing sixth, blowing his hopes of running at the games in August.

“The mindset heading into the race was totally different (from four years ago) . . . today I went to win it,” said Iizuka, who did not progress from the heats over 200 meters at the London Games.

“Once I heard the starter’s pistol, I only focused on running, I was completely into it and focused.

“I have wonderful runners around me and that brought me here (to this level). I have gratitude to them and hope I can now inspire them.”

Men’s 110-meter hurdles champion Wataru Yazawa gave himself plenty to do in his race when a poor reaction forced him to run over the top to get the win.

It took him until the second-last hurdle to get a clear lead, but once there he stretched it to win in 13.48.

Having already set an Olympic qualifying time recently, Yazawa will don the Japanese colors at his first Olympic Games in Rio.

“I’m glad I’ve finally got the chance to stand on the starting line of the (Olympic) stage I’ve dreamed of,” said the 24-year-old from Kanagawa Prefecture.

“I had a false start and got disqualified four years ago at the nationals in Osaka and I realized I was taking races lightly. I introduced some training methods with new technology and it finally paid off.”

The women’s 5000 meters saw one of the more spectacular turns of speed on the day, when Misaki Onishi switched on the bell-lap afterburners to kick away from second-place finisher Ayuko Suzuki.

Onishi’s fourth straight title win secured her ticket to Rio.

Satomi Kubokura will compete at her third straight Olympics after winning the 400-meter hurdles for the ninth time in 56.62 seconds.

Kubokura will be joined in Rio by men’s 5,000-meter winner Suguru Osako and men’s high jump gold medalist Takashi Eto.