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Daughter of the wind blows into town

Naoko Takahashi in Berlin

2002-09-26

Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi returns to the Berlin Marathon Sunday, a year after her ground-breaking world record here, the first time under two hours, 20mins for a woman.

The diminutive 30 year old said today (Thursday) that she has not had the sort of preparation she enjoyed prior last years race, so is not making any of the predictions which appeared in the now celebrated Japanese manga comic strip, Kazekko (Daughter of the Wind), dedicated to her career. "Last year feels like yesterday," she said at a press conference attended by local press and a retinue of over 50 Japanese media. "The aim last year was the world record, so I accepted to use pacemakers, but this time I want to relax and enjoy the run, so I don want any assistance. I don even know how Ill run until we begin".

Her eccentric coach Yoshio Koide said, "Due to injuries, she has had two months less training than last year, this will be a chance to see how what she is capable of on less work. I know the sort of time I want her to do, but I don want to pressure her by making it public".

Winning in 2.19.46 last year, Takahashi beat the previous record of Kenyan Tegla Loroupe by almost a minute, but then saw another Kenyan, Catherine Ndereba do the same to her own mark a week later in Chicago, with 2.18.47. Confirming that she had originally intended to run Chicago as well last year, but quietly withdrew, she said, "I wasn upset to lose the world record, I knew that it would go quickly, I was even happy to see that others could run as fast. It was a kind of fate that it went within a week". But she fully intends to race in the Tokyo Womens Marathon on November 17, since it is a qualifying event for the next Olympic race. Japan has so many good women marathoners that even the reigning Olympic champion is not exempted from qualifying. "Last year, I was going to run two marathons in a week, so two in 50 days is no problem. Berlin will be my first step on the road to the Olympics in Athens".

Takahashi confirmed that she still drinks giant hornet juice, "four to five bottles a day, after training," one of several products, which netted her an estimated sponsorship income of $4m last year. As her manager, Hitoshi Yasuno said, "She paid $1.1m in tax, so its fairly easy to work out". Commercial imperatives, filming and appearances, along with the death of her grandmother, hospitalisation for a minor kidney problem and a months holiday with her parents in New Zealand and Korea meant that she had a busy year, but its unusual, even for someone as good as Takahashi not to have a single race in the 12 months since her world record.

But, given that her training last year was geared for two races in a week, this years casual approach might still deliver her to the finish line in close to 2.20.


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