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Takahashi worries about Olympic selection

It will now be very difficult for Naoko Takahashi

2003-12-15

The defending champion Naoko Takahashi has to worry about Olympic selection for 2004 in Athens. The Japanese marathon star had won the Olympic gold medal in Sydney 2000 and then became the first woman to go under 2:20 in the real,- BERLIN MARATHON in 2001 (2.19.46). She then ran again in Berlin and won in 2002. But after suffering of injury problems she had a disappointing comeback in the Tokyo Marathon.

Before actually running the Tokyo Marathon the only question seemed to be what sort of winning time Naoko Takahashi was able to produce. But in the end the 31 year-old not even finished first. She was in so much trouble during the last 10 k that Alfenesh Alemu was able to pass her. The Ethiopian won with 2:24:47 but it was not before 2.27:21 that Takahashi finished second. Only once Takahashi had been slower in a marathon. She was slowing so badly that her 5 k split time between 35 and 40 k was 20:17 minutes. For Takahashis standards that is almost walking.

It was the end of a great win streak for Naoko Takahashi. Since 1998 she had won six marathons in a row: Nagoya in 1998, the Asian Games in 1998, Nagoya in 2000, the Olympics in 2000 plus the real,- BERLIN MARATHON twice in 2001 and 2002. Now she was second an explained after the race: “I had problems with my leg from 28 k onwards. In the end it felt numb.“

It will now be very difficult for Naoko Takahashi to qualify for the Japanese Olympic team – except if the Japanese federation somehow makes a concession for her. Taking into account that Mizuki Noguchi has secured her ticket to Athens after winning silver in the world championships in August there are only two places left. With Masako Chiba and Yoko Sibui there are two more Japanese world class runners, who will try to qualify in the Osaka Marathon in January. The last qualification race will be in Nagoya by the beginning of March. So there is not much time left for Naoko Takahashi.

While the Tokyo Marathon was a womens elite race only, the Fukuoka Marathon is the traditional mens elite race in December. The Japanese took the first three places, and each of them ran a sub 2:08 time. Tomoaki Kunichika was the winner, clocking 2:07:52. He should have gained a place in the Olympic team after this performance. Toshinari Suwa was second (2:07:55), Toshinari Takaoka took third place (2:07:59).


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