translated by Brett Larner
On Sept. 2, Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (30, Team Sysmex) went for her first public run since pulling out of the Beijing Olympics women's marathon shortly before the race with an injury to her left thigh. Feeling that she is not yet healed, Noguchi withdrew from her planned participation in the October 12 World Half Marathon Championships in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
The run marked the first time the marathon queen has shown herself in public since returning from Switzerland, jogging slowly for two hours on the afternoon of Sept. 2. Approached for an interview at the end of her run, Noguchi brushed reporters aside, saying, "Excuse me, I'm still practicing."
Noguchi injured her biceps femoris and semitendinosus on July 25 while training in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She cut the Swiss training camp short to return to Japan for medical treatment on Aug. 4. Noguchi remained hopeful and still wanted to run the Olympic marathon right up until the last moment, but in the end was forced to withdraw, ending her dream of becoming the first woman to defend an Olympic marathon title. Afterwards she remained hidden in the Sysmex company dormitories, declining to appear before the press and leaving it to the JOC to announce the news of her withdrawal from the Olympics.
After the announcement of her withdrawal, Team Sysmex head coach Nobuyuki Fujita (67) confirmed that Noguchi had not continued to practice while injured, telling the media, "It's still too painful. What running she is doing is all at a pace slower than her usual morning jogging. It will take some time before she can practice normally." Her injury has apparently not significantly improved and there is no telling when she will return to form. Noguchi won May's Sendai International Half Marathon, qualifying her for October's World Half Marathon Championships, but today she also officially withdrew from the team. A Sysmex director said only, "Noguchi will not run the World Half. Rikuren has also been given notice."
In 2009 the World Track and Field Championships will be held in Berlin, Germany. Coach Fujita commented, "That might be the best place to get our reputation back," but quickly added, "The injury isn't healed yet, though, so we can't really think about something so far away yet." Marathon training usually takes at least three months, so in terms of the qualification races for the World Championships November's Tokyo International Women's Marathon seems impossible. To be ready for January's Osaka International Women's Marathon Noguchi would have to back to full marathon training by mid-October, a possibility Coach Fujita views as "Pretty tough." Noguchi's only realistic chance to qualify for the World Championships will be at March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon, but at the moment her comeback plan is still a blank page. No return is in sight for the pride of Japan.