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).