Naomi Imaizumi (今泉奈緒美) wins Ironman Japan for the second consecutive time! Well, today many people in the triathlon world were following the events in Goto, Nagasaki, Japan, as several top contenders battled it out for a place on the podium and also a coveted slot for the Ironman World Championships to be held in Kona, Hawai'i in October.
I myself and many blogging friends and their friends in the US were hoping and in some ways expecting the US favorite, Bree Wee (ブリー・ウィー), to win the race. Bree has been improving by leaps and bounds in these last few years and has already had several impressive performances in just this past year. Bree beat Naomi by close to 15 minutes in the Hawai'i Ironman last year. By the way Bree has been improving, I don't think anyone who knew her had any doubt she would win. However, it did not quite work out that way, even though Bree went 9 hr 37 mins today compared to Naomi's 9 hrs 44 mins last year, when she won the ladies' race in Ironman, Japan. So what happened, and how did Naomi manage to storm to another victory in 9 hr 33 mins 59 secs? The answer is that I don't really know, and we will no doubt read the race reports tomorrow by the competitors themselves or other people.
Bree was leading on the bike after 50 kms, having benefited from a 5-minute plus lead on the swim over Naomi. However, Naomi's bike split was ten minutes faster than that of Bree, and Bree might have run about a minute faster than Naomi on the run. Naomi also "grazed her arm" falling off the bike early into her ride. While I think some of us would have thought that was it for Naomi, she seemed to catch fire and blazed the course. She must have been lucky only to suffer a "graze". The men's winner last year, Mr. Park, apparently had a much more serious injury early in the bike and was forced to withdraw from the race. Conditions were slippery in the hills.
I think the outcome of this Ironman Japan race today was that both ladies were true winners. Naomi held on up there in front, knowing that Bree would quickly take advantage of any weakness that she might reveal. Bree was less familiar with the course, and maybe lost some valuable minutes on the bike trying to play it safe rather than run the risk of a nasty crash. This was also Bree's first time racing in Japan, so it was all kind of a new experience. So all in all, it was a very close race. I hope both qualify for the Hawaii Ironman in Kona this October and we have the chance to see them battle it out again.
What I learned today is that it must be really great to go to different countries to race and meet the people in those countries. I would certainly like to try Ironman Japan some time, although the 15-hour time limit may prove quite a difficult challenge for me.
This morning, I still went swimming at the pool, and part of my swim was at the same time as Bree was in the water in Japan. I also swam the Ironman distance (2.4 miles, 3,860 meters) non-stop. Bree did it in 52:52, and I took about 1:16:00. Well, it was just a good feeling to think of her racing with the best while I was having a "normal" workout (I covered 4,500 meters in all today). Great race, Bree, and great race, Naomi. You are both a great inspiration to me.
Other reviews: Inside Triathlon (click here) and Ironman.com (click here). For results in Japanese (日本語) click here and in English click here.
(Photos of Bree courtesy of Ironman Japan)
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