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Koki Ikeda Punches Ticket to Budapest with Victory in Japanese Race Walking Championships

By winning the 20-kilometer race, Olympic silver medalist Koki Ikeda secures a spot on Japan's roster for the World Athletics Championships this summer.

Koki Ikeda wins the Japanese 20-km Race Walk Championships in Kobe on February 19. (KYODO)

In the Japanese 20-km Race Walking Championships on Sunday, February 19 in Kobe, Koki Ikeda's experience in marquee competitions was on full display.

Ikeda had faced the pressure of elite competition over the past few years and done quite well ― back-to-back silver medals in the event at the Tokyo Olympics in Sapporo on August 5, 2021, and the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on July 15.

The Hamamatsu native outclassed the field in Sunday's race as rain poured down on Rokko Island. Ikeda pulled away late in the race, which consisted of 20 1-km laps, and reached the finish line first in 1 hour, 18 minutes, 45 seconds.

With the win, the 24-year-old Ikeda qualified to represent Japan at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest. Runner-up Eiki Takahashi, a six-time winner of the national championships race, finished in 1:19.07, more than a minute faster than the standard qualifying time (1:20.10). Tomohiro Noda finished third in 1:19.52.

Seventy-two athletes competed in the race.

Stamina Pays Off for Koki Ikeda

Ikeda held a slim lead over Takahashi at the 15-km mark. At that point, his time was 58:45.

Then, in a pivotal moment in the race, Ikeda increased his lead to 10 meters over Takahashi, according to the World Athletics website's race report. And with 18 kilometers completed, Ikeda's position was solidified, with Takahashi trailing by 10 seconds.

That proved to be too big a hurdle for the 30-year-old, six-time race winner to overcome.

"It was a good race in which I was able to take the initiative," Ikeda was quoted as saying by NHK. "At the 16-km mark, I changed my mind and went forward with the intention of winning."

Ikeda added, "The goal of the world championships is to win a gold medal, so I'm going to have to review my gait and improve my level. I want to improve and face [the challenge]."

Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.


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