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Olympic drama for Takahashi as Tosa storms to victory in Nagoya

2004-03-15

Naoko Takahashi, Japan’s greatest marathon runner ever, will not be able to defend her Olympic marathon Gold in Athens. The 31 year-old, who has a status of a national hero back home in Japan, was not nominated for the Olympic race by her federation. It was four years ago, when she caused enthusiasm throughout Japan by winning the Olympic marathon in Sydney. A year later Naoko Takahashi made history, when she won the real,- BERLIN MARATHON and became the first woman to break the 2:20 barrier. She clocked 2:19:46.

Hampered by injury problems in 2003 she was supposed to be fit for the Tokyo Marathon in November. But at the end of the race Takashi was running into trouble and finally could only finish second in 2:27:21. As Mizuki Noguchi had already been pre-selected for Athens after winning the silver medal in the IAAF World Championships in Paris there were only two spots left for the Olympic team. It was now decided that the two winners from the qualification races in Osaka (Naoko Sakamoto/2:25:29) and Nagoya (Reiko Tosa/2:23:57) will join Noguchi in Athens. Concerning the men’s team Tomoaki Kunichika, Shigeru Aburaya and Toshinari Suwa were nominated for the marathon.

But it was the women’s nomination process which became dramatic. Before the start of the Nagoya Marathon it was almost obvious that only one place would be left. Besides Noguchi it seemed certain that Naoko Sakamoto would be named as well since she had won the high-class Osaka Marathon in January. So either Naoko Takahashi or the winner of Nagoya would get the third ticket.

It was probably decisive in which manner Reiko Tosa won on Sunday in Nagoya. It was herself who forced the pace early in the race, when it seemed to become tactical and slow. At the 25 k mark (1:25:51) seven runners were in the leading group. And it was again Reiko Tosa who stepped up the pace. But there was one runner she could not leave behind: Magumi Tanaka. Then Tanaka was even ahead of Tosa by a couple of seconds. But five kilometres from the finish Reiko Tosa managed to get back into the lead and finally left Tanaka behind. “As long as I was able to see her I did not give up. I want to go to Athens”, Tosa later explained. She had already won a marathon silver at the IAAF World Championships in Edmonton 2001. Tanaka took second place in a personal best of 2:24:47 while Aki Fujjikawa was third in 2:27:06.


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