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International Chiba Ekiden to Feature Tomescu-Dita, Fukushi, Browne and Other Olympians

by Brett Larner

On Nov. 10 the International Chiba Ekiden released the entry lists for the 2008 edition of the race, to take place Nov. 24 just east of Tokyo in central Chiba Prefecture.

In the second year of the Chiba Ekiden's mixed team format Japan will once again field a team of Olympians and national record holders including Kayoko Fukushi, Yuriko Kobayashi and Takayuki Matsumiya. Other countries competing in this year's Chiba Ekiden include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ethiopia, Great Britain, Romania, Russia, Sweden and the United States, along with a team representing hosts Chiba Prefecture and another made up of top Japanese university runners. Notably absent is Kenya, which has in the past typically fielded teams made up of professionals living in Japan.

The biggest name in the field is undoubtedly Beijing Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania. Several others countries are fielding runners with Olympic and world-level credentials, but all will have their work cut out for them to best Japan's all-star lineup. Ethiopia is likely to be Japan's strongest challenger, with two men under 13:10 for 5000m, two under 27:15 for 10000m, and one woman under 15:00 for 5000m. Russia also fields a dangerous team including two women with 5000m times better than 15:00. The Japanese university team this year is exceptionally strong and will be a candidate for a top-3 finish.

A complete listing in both English and Japanese of each country's team lineup is located here. Noteworthy runners in the field include:

Simon Bairu (Canada) - 10000m: 27:50.71
Daniel Brown (U.S.A.) - Athens Olympics men's 10000m and marathon
Constantina Dita (Romania) - Beijing Olympics women's marathon gold medal
Belaynesh Fikadu (Ethiopia) - 5000m: 14:45.25
Shawn Forrest (Australia) - 2008 NCAA 10000m 2nd place
Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 3000m, 5000m, half marathon NR, 15 km WR, Beijing Olympics women's 5000m and 10000m
Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia) - 10000m: 27:13.08
Ryuji Kashiwabara (Japanese Univ.) - #1-ranked univ. 1st year
Yuriko Kobayashi (Japan) - 1500m NR, Beijing Olympics women's 5000m
Kazue Kojima (Japanese Univ.) - #1-ranked univ. woman nationally
Maria Konovalova (Russia) - 5000m: 14:38.09
Maria Magdalena Luca (Romania) - 2008 World Youth women's 800m gold medal
Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan) - 5000m NR, 30km WR, Beijing Olympics men's 5000m and 10000m
Hunegnaw Mesfin (Ethiopia) - 10000m: 27:13.05
Tera Moody (U.S.A.) - U.S. Olympic Trials women's marathon 5th place
Edward Moran (U.S.A.) - 2007 Pan American Games men's 5000m gold medal
Yusei Nakao (Japan) - 5th place, 2008 World Half Marathon
Hitomi Niiya (Chiba Pref.) - winner, 2007 Tokyo Marathon
Tomoya Onishi (Japanese Univ.) - Toyo Univ. star
Yui Sakai (Japanese Univ.) - #1-ranked univ. woman in Kanto Region
Lilia Shobukhova (Russia) - Beijing Olympics women's 5000m 6th place
Ben St. Lawrence (Australia) - 2008 World XC bronze medal team member
Melinda Vernon (Australia) - 2008 World XC bronze medal team member

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
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