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Ogata Misses Top 8 Prize Position

originally published in the Nikkei Newspaper, 8/25/08

translated by Brett Larner

"Somebody ran 2:06 here, so the heat was irrelevant." So said Tsuyoshi Ogata after his 13th place finish in the Beijing Olympics men's marathon. With the temperature 24 degrees at the start, the lead pack went out with the kind of speed rarely seen in a summer marathon. "I thought it was too fast and hesitated a bit, and then I couldn't pick up enough positions from where I was back in the pack." At 10 km he was already 1 minute behind the leaders. After this point the sunshine became stronger and stronger. "I thought the lead pack would break up and that people would start to come back," Ogata went on. His expectation failed to come to pass, as the top runners continued on at a high pace.

At 25 km, defending gold medalist Stefano Baldini of Italy came up on Ogata from behind. The two runners worked together to pick off stragglers and advance through the field, but Ogata could not move into a better position than 13th, outside the prizes given to the top 8. "Beforehand I thought the winning time would be under 2:10, maybe 2:09 or 2:08. I didn't expect it to be this fast," he said dejectedly, hanging his head.

"The marathon isn't something unique any more, just a longer version of the 10000 m. That's the kind of era we're living in now," commented Yasushi Sakaguchi, the coach of both Ogata and fellow Olympic marathoner Atsushi Sato at Team Chugoku Denryoku. The four years until London are a long time for him to contemplate how the marathon became a race of track-level speed in the Beijing heat.

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