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Japanese Fukushi memories

Japanese Fukushi memories

As a 2:22 performer and former World Championship bronze medallist Kayoko Fukushi has carved out a reputation as one of the world’s leading women’s marathoners. Yet the Japanese athlete believes her experiences at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships also played their part in helping her achieve her goals on the road.

By the time of her IAAF World Cross Country Championships debut at the 2002 edition in Dublin, Kayoko Fukushi was already a star in the making in her homeland.

She first made her mark internationally by finishing an impressive fourth over 5000m at the 2000 IAAF World U20 Championships in Santiago, Chile, and backed it up the next year by setting national junior records in the 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m.

To build on her international experience the then 19-year-old won selection for the senior team to contest the 2002 World Cross, and although she did not have a wealth of cross country experience she was looking forward to competing in the Irish capital.

“During high school I sometimes trained on a cross-country style course, although my only cross-country race experience had been at the Chiba and Fukuoka cross-country meets in Japan,” she explains. “I don't really know if I am a (cross country) “natural;” however, I always really enjoyed running on grass or turf.”

At the event, staged at the Leopardstown Racecourse, Fukushi performed with pride. The young Japanese athlete produced an accomplished display to finish a respectable 15th overall – finishing some 58 seconds behind race winner Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain – and helped her nation to fourth in the team competition.

“Going to a new country for a world championship, everything was fresh and exciting for me, including running the race on a horse race track!” she says with a laugh. “My main memory was that I didn't really know exactly where I was on the course and I just ran until the finish line. It was fun.”