Team Tenmaya`s Mika Hikichi is scheduled to run in the 1st of the qualification races for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Tokyo International Women`s Marathon on Nov. 18. Athens Olympics gold medallist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and former Japanese national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) are the heavy favorites and expected to lead the way, but Hikichi is unconcerned. "I want to run my own race under my own power." At age 25, Hikichi is the youngest of the 5 elite domestic women scheduled to run.
Hikichi`s preparation for this, her 3rd full marathon, has been steady and solid. She ran the Hokkaido Marathon on Sept. 9 as a training run for Tokyo, finishing 4th and running a tough 2:36:15 despite temperatures in the 30`s. Hikichi felt her time in Hokkaido was irrelevant. "The important thing I gained from that race was experience and confidence from running well in such hot conditions." Since Hokkaido, Hikichi has been training exclusively within Japan. On Nov. 3 she ran the 5.5 km 4th stage of the Awajishima Women`s Ekiden, finishing with the 2nd fastest time on her stage. Hikichi`s coach Futoshi Shinohara said, "She`s in great condition and ready to go."
It has been 8 years since Hikichi left her native Saga Prefecture to join Team Tenmaya. She has suffered repeatedly from injuries, including one which kept her out of last year`s Tokyo International, but is positive and enthusiastic about finally getting a chance to do Tokyo. "I`ve always wanted to run this race and am feeling different this year than before." At last year`s Nagoya International Women`s Marathon she ran her PB of 2:31:03. When she steps to the starting line on Sunday, Hikichi will be looking for her breakthrough performance.
Translator`s note: Team Tenmaya includes Beijing contender Naoko Sakamoto and Tokyo International Women`s Marathon Course Record Holder Eri Yamaguchi.