Nagoya, last chance for Japanese women to qualify for London

Nagoya, last chance for Japanese women to qualify for London

Provided by IAAF

The 2012 Nagoya Women’s Marathon - the final Olympic Marathon team qualifying race for Japanese women – is scheduled for Sunday 11 March, and the field at this IAAF Silver Label Road Race is loaded.

Although all-time greats Catherine Ndereba and Lidia Simon have been invited to the race, all eyes will be on the top Japanese. It should be noted, however, that Simon is going after a fifth consecutive Olympic Marathon appearance.

The Nagoya Women’s Marathon has been completely revamped. Not only is the race a first class elite marathon as it has been for years, it is now a mass women-only race with 15,000 runners. 2000 Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi wished to run this largest women only marathon but she has other obligations The course is revamped as well and according to Takahashi, “Finishing in Nagoya Dome is absolutely great. Furthermore the final hill comes later on than the previous course so the race is likely to be decided closer to the finish.”

Because the race is held exactly to the date from the massive East Japan Earthquake, the moment of silence will be observed at 2:46 am, but it should not affect the elites for the race starts at 9 am.

The race is highly anticipated in Japan, like the 2004 Osaka Ladies Marathon where the field was also loaded. That Osaka race was slow because everyone was watching each other and there was no pace makers. This will not happen on Sunday because the race has recruited pace makers. Since Risa Shigetomo won the 2012 Osaka Women’s Marathon in a quite impressive 2:23:23, many thought that she clinched an Olympic team berth. However, if three runners clock in the 2:21 range on Sunday then Shigetomo’s position on the team may be in jeopardy.

Mizuki Noguchi, 2004 Olympic Marathon champion, will try to make the third consecutive Marathon team. For Noguchi, Nagoya, the venue of her Marathon debut in 2002, will be her first Marathon since she won in Tokyo in 2007 with a course record time to qualify for the 2008 Olympic team. She was forced to withdraw from the Beijing race due to an untimely injury, however. Earlier in the season, Noguchi entered Osaka in an attempt to qualify for London but was forced to withdraw again due to injury. Noguchi’s last race was at the Sanyo Women’s Half Marathon in December, where she was fifth in 1:10:48. Nagoya will be her final attempt to qualify for London, however, it should be noted that Noguchi is reported to be about 70%, and it will take a minor miracle for her to win the race on Sunday.

Thus the role of favorite will be filled by Yukiko Akaba, fifth in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, and Yoshimi Ozaki, 2009 World Championships Silver medallist. Akaba had an option to sit and wait for the good news because she was the highest placing Japanese in Daegu, but after seeing Shigetomo’s superb run in Osaka in January, Akaba decided to make sure that she will be on the team by winning in Nagoya. Her last race was the Sanyo Women’s half marathon, which she won with 1:09:16, more than a minute ahead of Noguchi. Ozaki tried to make the Olympic marathon team in last November’s Yokohama Women’s Marathon. However, perhaps because she was not 100%, Ozaki was outkicked by Ryoko Kizaki in Yokohama thus dashing her chances. So it was only natural that she would make one final bid to make the team in Nagoya, the venue of her Marathon debut exactly four years ago. Ozaki’s last race was back in mid-December at the All-Japan Corporate team Women’s Ekiden Championships, where she won the first stage.

If for any reason both of the favourites falter, then Remi Nakazato, Mai Ito and Kaoru Nagao might steal the show. Twenty-three year old Nakazato, a team-mate of Kizaki, was second to Ozaki in Yokohama last February, and then finished 10th in Daegu. Ito, second in last year’s Osaka Women’s Marathon with 2:26:55 was only 22nd in Daegu; however, recently she ran a personal best of 1:10:03 in the half marathon. Twenty-two year old Nagao also set a half marathon personal best of 1:10:32 in February.

On paper, Yoko Shibui with the personal best of 2:19:41 may be a co-favourite, but she has not broken 2:29 since 2009, and thus might not be ready to run 2:23 on Sunday. Like Shibui, Yuri Kano may be another sentimental favourite to make the Olympic team. However, Kano has not run a Marathon since 2010 Asian Games, so although her personal best is 2:24:47, it may be little hard to estimate what she is capable of now.

Yoshiko Fujinaga, who won a bronze in the junior division of 1999 World Cross Country Championships, was once a runner with a huge potential. However, at 30, she has yet to fulfill her promise. However, since Fujinaga recorded a personal best of 2:25:40 in the last year’s London Marathon, she might be on the verge of breakthrough.

Like Fujinaga, Akane Wakita was once a young promising runner. She has all the right ingredient to be a great Marathon runner. She competed at 10,000m in the 2007 World Championships as a 19-year old; she is coached by legendary Yoshio Koide, whose athletes won gold, silver and bronze at the Olympic marathon. Is Wakita next Naoko Takahashi? We might find out on Sunday.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Invited runners for Nagoya Women's Marathon

Catherine Ndereba (KEN) 2:18:47 2001 Chicago

Lidia Simon (ROU) 2:22:54 2000 Osaka

Albina Mayorova (RUS) 2:25:35 2003 Chicago

Olena Shurkhno (UKR) 2:28:34 2011 San Diego

Rasa Drazdauskaite (LTU) 2:29:47 2011 Torino


Mizuki Noguchi 2:19:12 2005 Berlin

Yoko Shibui 2:19:41 2004 Berlin

Yoshimi Ozaki 2:23:30 2008 Tokyo

Yukiko Akaba 2:24:09 2011 London

Yuri Kano 2:24:27 2008 Tokyo

Remi Nakazato 2:24:29 2011 Yokohama

Mizuho Nasukawa 2:25:38 2009 Tokyo

Yoshiko Fujinaga 2:25:40 2011 London

Mai Ito 2:26:55 2011 Osaka

Kaoru Nagao 2:26:58 2011 Yokohama

Noriko Higuchi 2:28:49 2011 Tokyo

Kaori Yoshida 2:29:45 2010 Chicago

Akane Wakita 2:29:54 2010 Nagoya

Misaki Katsumata 2:31:10 2011 Tokyo

Yoko Miyauchi 2:33:36 2010 Nagoya