Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field Announced

by Brett Larner

The Osaka International Women’s Marathon has released the list of elite entrants for its 2009 running on Jan. 25, a competition which doubles as the second selection race for the Japanese national team at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. At the top of the field are former Japanese national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and Ethiopian Worknesh Tola, both of whom clocked 2:25 times in their best marathons of 2008. While Tola’s time came in a 2nd-place finish at the Paris Marathon in April, Shibui’s came in a 4th-place meltdown after she attempted to run under 2:20 at November’s final Tokyo International Women’s Marathon.

Aside from a potential challenge from two-time World Championships marathoner Yumiko Hara (Team Kyocera), Osaka would likely end up a match race between Shibui and Tola were it not for the presence of marathon debutantes Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and Peninah Arusei (Kenya). Both women ran low-1:08 half marathons in 2008, making a sub-2:23 debut entirely realistic. Barring another spectacular crash from Shibui, such a time will be necessary for Akaba to have a shot at winning or even simply taking the top Japanese position to secura a spot on the Berlin team. Yoshio Koide-coached Akane Wakita, a member of the 2007 World Championships 10000 m team, will also make her marathon debut but is less likely to figure into the front pack.

A solid pack of women in the 2:23-2:28 range fill out the Osaka field, including veteran Lidia Simon (Romania) and aging domestic stars Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) and Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz). Of the women at this level, Team Juhachi Ginko’s Madoka Ogi is best poised for potential improvement. Ogi debuted at the 2008 Osaka in 2:26:55, and with improved self-confidence and experience either could pull off a surprise victory in the style of Tokyo International Women’s Marathon winner Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei), who won in 2:23:30 after debuting in 2:26:19. March’s Nagoya International Women’s Marathon. Shibui’s teammate Miki Ohira would be another contender for a breakthrough were it not for her evident lack of fitness at the National Jitsugyodan Women’s Ekiden earlier in December.

For a complete listing of the 2009 Osaka International Women’s Marathon field, please click here.

2009 Osaka International Women’s Marathon Elite Field
Worknesh Tola (Ethiopia) - SB: 2:25:37 (Paris '08); PB: 2:25:37 (Paris '08)
Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) – SB: 2:25:51 (Tokyo Int’l ’08); PB: 2:19:41 (Berlin ’04)
Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) – SB: 2:26:09 (Osaka ’08); PB: 2:26:09 (Osaka ’08)
Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) – SB: 2:26:55 (Osaka ’08); PB: 2:26:55 (Osaka ’08)
Yumiko Hara (Team Kyocera) - SB: 2:27:14 (Nagoya '08); PB: 2:23:48 (Osaka '07)
Lidia Simon (Romania) - SB: 2:27:17 (Osaka '08); PB: 2:22:54 (Osaka '00)
Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) – SB: 2:27:52 (Osaka ’08); PB: 2:27:52 (Osaka ’08)
Aki Fujikawa (Team Shiseido) – SB: 2:28:06 (Osaka '08); PB: 2:27:06 (Nagoya ’04)
Gulnara Vygovskaya (Russia) – SB: 2:30:03 (Berlin '08); PB: 2:28:22 (Paris ’07)
Kaori Yoshida (Second Wind AC) – SB: 2:30:58 (Nagoya ’08): PB: 2:30:58 (Nagoya ’08)
Dulce Maria Rodriguez (Mexico) - SB: 2:33:23 (Torreon '08); PB: 2:28:54 (Chicago '06)
Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC) - SB: 2:39:25 (Izumisano '08); PB: 2:28:39 (Tokyo Int'l '07)
Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - SB: 2:24:39 (Osaka '07); PB: 2:23:30 (Osaka '03)
Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) – SB: 2:26:37 (Rotterdam '07); PB: 2:23:26 (Berlin ’04)
Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) – debut; half-marathon PB: 1:08:11 (Jitsugyodan ’08)
Peninah Arusei (Kenya) – debut; half-marathon PB: 1:08:20 (New Delhi ’08)
Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) – debut; half-marathon PB: 1:09:57 (Kobe ’08)

© 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Anonymous said...

I'm sure Yumiko Hara will win. She'll face Mari Ozaki and Yoko shibui whom she beated in 2007. She ran 10 minutes faster than Shibui in 2007. Shibui ran 2:34:15.
And Mari Ozaki was a minute off Hara's pace. And the rest of the runners are weak competitors. There's no way they can keep up with Hara.

Anonymous said...

Why do people keep focusing on Akaba? Yumiko Hara is the defending champion. It's not easy for akaba to beat a defending champion.

Brett Larner said...

Hara is not the defending champion. She won Osaka in 2007, not 2008. The British runner Mara Yamauchi won last year and has chosen not to defend her title as she will be running London instead.

Brett Larner said...


To help you understand, here is a brief comparison of Hara and Akaba's best times:

Yumiko Hara:
5000m: 15:38.81 (2004)
10000m: 31:24.33 (2005)
1/2 mar: 1:09:28 (2003)
mar: 2:23:48 (2007)

Yukiko Akaba:
5000m: 15:06.07 (2008)
10000m: 31:15.34 (2008)
1/2 mar: 1:08:11 (2008)

I believe that is why everyone is focusing on Akaba.