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Russia take runaway victory - Yokohama Ekiden

26.02.2006

Russia, one of the pre-race favourites comfortably won the 2006 Yokohama International Womens Ekiden, Yokohama, Japan, a six-stage marathon distance ekiden in 2:13:55.
The Russian teams winning time was a mere 15 seconds short of the course record set last year by defending champions Japan. Russia, the inaugural champions in 1983, led almost wire-to-wire to win the Yokohama race for the eighth time, one short of the record nine victories held by Japan.

How the race unfolded -

Soon after the start, Russia, Ethiopia and Kenya formed the lead pack. They passed 1Km in 2:54 followed by a Japanese high schools Yuriko Kobayashi in 3:00. The top three teams stayed together until 4Km, passing 3Km in 9:01 and 4Km in 11:54. But then Kenya lost contact with the leaders, followed by Ethiopia 700m later. Liliya Shobukhova of Russia recorded the stage best, 14:49, in the 5Km first stage, shattering the previous stage record of 15:26, set last year. Belayinesh Fekabu of Ethiopia was 7 seconds behind, while Kipchumba of Kenya was another 11 seconds behind. In her debut at the 5Km (first stage), 17-years-old Kobayashi (15:10), said It was a great experience for me. I hope to run in more world class event, said Kobayashi, who is the defending national 1500m champion. In all, four runners broke the previous stage best.

Soon after the exchange, Asnakech Menitestu of Ethiopian caught the Russias Lidiya Grigoryeva, and they ran together for 1Km, at which point Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia moved away from the Ethiopian team, and no one was able to challenge the Russians from that point onwards. Grigoryeva set a stage record, 31:09, in the 10Km second stage, breaking the previous record of 31:25, also set last year. At the end of the second stage, 15Km into the Ekiden, Russia had a substantial lead, 58 seconds ahead of second placed Ethiopia, who in turn were 56 seconds ahead of Japan.

The Russias lead over Ethiopia was cut to 45 seconds after the 6Km third stage, however, by the end of the fifth stage, 37Km into the race, Russia had commanding lead of 3 minutes and 3 seconds over China, who had moved into second on stage five. Chinas Xi Quihong had passed Japan to move into third place 5Km into the fifth stage, and 1500m later on had passed Ethiopia to move into second. So at the end of the fifth stage, Russian was in the lead followed by China, who in turn was followed by Ethiopia and then Japan.

While Russia was running alone in front, Hitomi Niiya, made up a 26 seconds deficit to catch Ethiopia, 3.4Km into the sixth and the final stage. Japan and Ethiopia ran together until just before the line, when Niiya was able to pull ahead of Ameba Denboba of Ethiopia for third place.

Niiya recorded the stage best, an appropriate present for herself, for the day was her 18th birthday for Niiya. I was not even thinking about my birthday. All I was thinking of was to finish the race smiling. It was my first anchor leg as a high school student and I really liked it, said Niiya who along with Yuriko Kobayashi, is a Japans best hope for an individual medal at the upcoming World Cross Country Championships.

In the end Russia was brought home by Alena Samokhvalova, winning by 2 minutes and 53 seconds from China.

Liliya Shobukhova who had given the Russian the initial lead said: Despite the rain, I was able to do my best. Lidiya Grigoryeva, who recorded the second stage record, said: We were able to put together a good team and our training leading up to this race went well. I think the rain helped me because it kept my body from overheating.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
With Assistance by Akihiro Onishi

Results:
(weather: Rain; temperature: 6.2C; humidity 88%; wind 8.4m/s from North)
1. RUS 2:13:55
2. CHN 2:16:48
3. JPN 2:17:28
4. ETH 2:17:28 same time as 3rd
5. KEN 2:19:31
6. Kinki district 2:19:41

Best Stages
Stage Distance Time Name
1 5Km 14:49 Liliya Shobukhova (RUS)
2 10Km 31:09 Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS)
3 6Km 19:02 Kaori Kumasaka (Hokkaido-Tohoku)
4 6Km 19:32 Inga Abitova (RUS)
5 10Km 31:44 Galina Bogomolova (RUS)
6 5.195Km 16:54 Hitomi Niiya (JPN)
RusAthletics - Russian Athletics
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