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Koide Protege Hitomi Niiya to Make Bid for Berlin World Championships Team at Hokkaido Marathon

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/080830/spg0808300501000-n1.htm

translated by Brett Larner

The elite field for Sunday's Hokkaido Marathon met the press at a conference held Aug. 29 at a Sapporo-area hotel. 2007 Tokyo Marathon victor Hitomi Niiya (20, Team Toyota Jidoshokki) stated that in her race she intends to make a strong bid for the 2009 Berlin World Championships women's marathon team. 2008 Biwako Mainichi Marathon 4th place finisher Yuzo Onishi (30, Team Nissin Shokuhin) and others appeared ready to face the challenge of tomorrow's competition.

Hot on the heels of the Beijing Olympics, the Hokkaido Marathon is the first race which Rikuren will give serious consideration when selecting the team for next year's world championships. With two days to go until her second marathon, the 20 year-old Niiya plans to make a deep impression. Overflowing with youthful energy, it is clear that Niiya is made of the right stuff. "I think the race will happen after 30 km," she says. "I'll run in the lead pack, then I'll aim to finish around 2 hours 30 minutes."*

The future is bright for this early-blooming runner. Running her first marathon at the age of 18, Niiya won the inaugural edition of the Tokyo Marathon in 2007. She hoped to become one of the new stars at the Beijing Olympics, but injuries kept her from running her planned qualifying race. "The marathon is a battle against yourself, so it's the hardest race," says Niiya, describing the depression she felt after missing her Beijing goal. Her coach, Yoshio Koide, 69, helped her to put this early setback in perspective, telling her, "You can always aim for London." This simple comment brought her back to thinking positively.

In Beijing the Japanese women's team was trying to earn its fifth straight Olympic marathon medal but was unsuccessful. A new generation is needed to step up to the challenge. The Hokkaido Marathon is the first step on a road that continues on over the next four years, and Hitomi Niiya is one of the brightest hopes. "Training is Boulder went really well, and I'm feeling ready to run a fast race."

*Translator's note: Hokkaido is a notoriously hot race, thus Niiya's goal is quite respectable. At the same time, Japan is currently experiencing a period of unseasonably cool weather more typical of mid fall. Times may be faster than usual.

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