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【Athletics】Japan ID Half Marathon Championships: Kaneko won with New Record

The Second Japan ID Half Marathon Championships, hosted by the Japan Intellectual Disability Athletics Federations (JIDAF), took place on January 29, blessed by a clear winter day, on a special course around the Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo. Ryo Kaneko won the men's championship with a time of 1:09:31, breaking the Japan ID record (held by Kaneko himself) by five seconds. As with last year, the championships were held simultaneously with the Shinjuku City Half Marathon - Citizens Health Marathon. Kaneko was also the overall winner this year.

Shota Gomi finished second in the ID men's half marathon with a time of 1:10:17, and third in the overall ranking. Naohiko Yomura finished third at 1:12:37, and was sixth in the overall ranking. In the women's championship, winner Misaki Ari's time of 1:25:40 broke the Japan ID record by 25 minutes and 8 seconds, and won second in the overall-ranking.

In the 10km category, Nobuhiro Anzai won the ID men's race at 32:32, and fourth overall. Hikaru Sakurai finished second at 33:00, and sixth overall. Ryoko Mayuzumi won the women's 10km at 42:03, finishing sixth overall.

Over 70 men and women with intellectual disabilities ran at the championships, showing a solid presence among the approximately 10,000 able-bodied runners that participated.

Kaneko won the Japan ID Half Marathon for the second consecutive time, and also was the overall winner

Kaneko turned his loss into motivation

Kaneko ran a truly victorious race. He won the overall race, leading the second place ID runner by 1 minute 46 seconds and the first place non-ID runner by 32 seconds. At the top of the podium, Kaneko showed the world a satisfied smile. He says his victory was a result of following the words of his coach from his Namegawa running group (Saitama), "Don't move forward until the 16 kilometer point, even if you want to." In fact, he stayed parallel with Gomi for the first 16 kilometers, but "sped forward all at once from there, and from 18 kilometers onward went full speed. It was tough, but I told myself I had to keep the speed and not give up." Kaneko's ability to change gears, without the presence of competitors, is one thing that makes him a great runner.

Kaneko says he also "turned his loss into motivation." In the last championships, in which he finished second in the overall raking, he ran parallel with the non-ID winner up until the very end, but lost with a five-second difference. In addition, he finished second at the 7th INAS World Half Marathon Champions hip held last November in Portugal and contributed greatly to Japan's second place in the team competition, together with Yomura (seventh place), Shinnosuke Oto (eighth place) and Yuto Mizuno (thirteenth). In the team competition, the three highest times are combined. Kaneko, however, had gotten sick one week before he was scheduled to fly to Portugal and was not in his best condition—he lost to a Portuguese athlete by six seconds.

These losses helped to motivate him to the next championships. He got his revenge with his victory this time, but it seems that he is still not entirely satisfied, as shown by his words, "I'm happy that I broke my own record, but I want to become even faster." With favorable conditions, like a good rival that can keep up with him, we can expect to see even faster times from him in the future.

20-year-old Gomi takes second!

Gomi stole a spot on the podium at his first half marathon

Twenty-year-old Gomi is a rising star who took second place at his first half marathon. He started running in elementary school, and has continued throughout regular junior high and high school. He was selected for the JIDAF high performance program in 2016. He works in Yamanashi prefecture, where he is originally from, and continues to train under his father as coach. At the JIDAF Okinawa training camp held in January, he announced that he wanted to "win a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games."

Because it was his first competition, Gomi ran many trial runs. "I didn't think it was that tough during my trial runs, but today it was tough. But I never lost heart. I lost to Kaneko, but I will accept this loss and try to get my revenge next year."

Up until high school, 10,000 meters was a long race for Gomi, so this half marathon was a completely new experience. Nevertheless, he stayed with Kaneko until the 16-kilometer mark and formed the race with him. Kaneko even praised him: "Gomi pulled me forward. He is a good rival." We hope to see their further growth spurred on by friendly rivalry.

Japan's intellectual disability athletics world geared for the 2020 Tokyo Games

JIDAF is putting forth new efforts towards attaining medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. Last summer they reviewed their high performance program and raised the average time required for qualification. They intend to narrow down goals with a small but talented selection of athletes. They also look for and recruit young and promising athletes from many areas, including special education schools, regular schools and even regular competitions.

There are few Paralympic athletics events with an intellectual disability class. JIDAF intends to make a request to the International Paralympic Committee to add long-distance events, which are currently not available.

For high performance program athletes, the greatest goal of this year is the 2017 INAS World Athletics Championships to be held this May in Thailand. It is one of the top international competitions for athletes with intellectual disabilities. All 27 Japan representative athletes (16 men, 11 women) are scheduled to attend, including Kaneko, Gomi and Ari who demonstrated excellent performance at this championship. We hope to see them carve their own places among international rivals.

Ari won the women's championship with a strong performance

The 10km race, where ID runners showed strong presence among non-ID runners

text by Kyoko Hoshino
photo by X-1