BIG RECORD, SMALL CHANGE
Over 55 million Japanese watched live on television as Naoko Takahashi broke the marathon world record in Berlin on Sunday morning.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in Tokyo, with little other sporting distraction, an exuberant performance by a young woman who has already become a national icon in the 12 months since she won the Olympic title was just what the public needed to cheer them up. At the race finish, 11.20am in Berlin, 6.20pm in Tokyo, 53.5% of the TV watching public saw Takahashi break the tape in two hours, 19min, 46 sec, taking 57 seconds off Tegla Loroupes previous record, also set in Berlin two years ago. Takahashi deliberately avoided the World Championships in Edmonton, in order to aim at a world record time in her first mass marathon, and also the first time she had run a mixed race, men and women. It was the third time in four years that the Berlin Marathon has produced a world record - in 1998, Brazilian Ronaldo da Costa ran 2.06.05,a time since beaten by Khalid Khannouchi in Chicago; then came Loroupe, and now Takahashi. Ironically, Chicago, whose race is next Sunday (Oct 7) was an alternative venue for Takahashi. But a combination of an afternoon TV time in Japan rather than late evening for Chicago, and a flat, fast Berlin course which only features 11 turns rather than Chicagos 35 seems to have militated in favour of Berlin, despite Chicago offering more money. But Takahashi will not lack for ready cash. Even following her Olympic win last year, her charismatic coach Yoshio Koide persuaded the Japanese Athletic Federation to relax the strictest rules governing athletes income in worldwide track and field athletics, so that she could sign contracts directly with sponsors. She has seven at the last count, yielding, according to one insider, an average of $500,000 each. In contrast to which, the immediate proceeds from Berlin - DM 230,000 prize money - will seem like small change.
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