Fukushima native Aizawa secures Olympic berth with 10,000-meter victory

Akira Aizawa, belonging to Asahi Kasei Corp. and a graduate from Gakuho Ishikawa high school in Fukushima Prefecture, won the men's 10,000-meter race with a new national record of 27 minutes, 18.75 seconds at the Japanese athletic championships for long-distance events held at Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka on Dec. 4. The first national title for Aizawa and the time that cleared the Olympic qualifying standard of 27:28.00 gave the 23-year-old runner a berth on the Japanese national team at next summer's Tokyo Olympics. It will be his first Olympic ticket. The race which brought top runners together proceeded at a pace surpassing the old national record of 27:29.69 from beginning to end. Aizawa, running for the third time at the championships, stayed in around seventh place before gradually outrunning competitors. With three laps left, he moved up to second (only after a foreign runner who took part outside the domestic championship framework) and surged into first the last lap. Aizawa clipped as much as 10.94 off the previous record logged in 2015 by Kota Murayama, 27, also belonging to Asahi Kasei. Runner-up Tatsuhiko Ito of Honda Motor Co. finished in 27:25.73, also breaking the Olympic qualifying standard. In third place was Kazuki Tamura, 25, of Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd., whose time was 27:28.92. All three smashed the national record. Aizawa hails from Sukagawa city. During his high school days, he participated in the annual national high school "ekiden" road relay competition for three straight years, contributing to the school's finish within the best eight each time. He advanced to Toyo University, and rewrote section records for the fourth straight race in as many ekiden events among the "Big Three" ekiden races since the Hakone Ekiden when he was a junior. At the Hakone race when he was a senior, he marked an unprecedented record at the 1-hour, 5-minute level on the second leg, sending a shock wave among ekiden fans. In the inter-prefectural men's ekiden race, Aizawa won the best section prize on the seventh leg this year and last, leading the Fukushima Prefecture team to its first championship in the 2019 race. He took part in the prefecture's inter-municipal ekiden competition (Fukushima Ekiden) for five consecutive years since 2010 when he was a freshman at Naganuma Junior High School in Sukagawa. ■Want to achieve good results at Olympics "I'm happy to have been assured of a place at the Olympics as I had practiced so far setting my sights on this meet," Aizawa said. "I approached the race with a determination never to lose. I would like to achieve good results at the Olympics which would be a step forward toward my ultimate goal of attempting a marathon." (Translated by Kyodo News)