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
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.