by Brett Larner
Mizuho Nasukawa wins the 2009 Tokyo Marathon in 2:25:38.
2009 Tokyo Marathon winner Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Aruze) makes her overseas marathon debut this weekend at the Chicago Marathon. Nasukawa is the top marathon protege of Yoshio Koide, the coach who led Naoko Takahashi to Olympic gold and the world's first sub-2:20 women's marathon. A career track runner with two Asian Games bronze medals from 2002 to her name, Nasukawa made a tentative move to the marathon in 2004 and 2005, her best result of that time being a 2:29:49 fourth place finish at the 2004 Osaka International Women's Marathon.
Following this move Nasukawa returned to the track, recording her 5000 m PB of 15:23.00 in 2006 and experimenting with steeplechase, but her resume remained largely a blank until March's Tokyo Marathon. In Tokyo she ran a race which should have put her on the list for the Berlin World Championships, recording a sizeable PB of 2:25:38 in extremely windy conditions to win over the likes of Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) and Shitaye Gemechu (Ethiopia). It was a very, very impressive performance which looked to be a sign that the 29 year old Nasukawa would become a major player in Japanese marathoning.
After Tokyo Nasukawa practically vanished. She said that she planned to run the 5000 m at the World Championships, but at June's National Championships, the main selection race for Berlin, her name appeared only the entry list for the steeplechase and she did not actually start. Her first public appearance after Tokyo came at the August 30 Hokkaido Marathon. Nasukawa was expected to challenge hot-weather specialist Kiyoko Shimahara for the win but never attempted to follow Shimahara's course-record pace, instead running a slow and steady 2:34:17 for 7th and looking utterly spent at the finish. Shortly afterwards came the news of her Chicago appearance, raising the question of whether Hokkaido had been a training run or a genuine failure.
In the absence of her Hokkaido run she could have been called a top three contender in Chicago on the strength of her Tokyo win, but with no other result to go on in the last six months than her PW in Hokkaido Nasukawa's chances of success don't look very favorable. It is unlikely she would go to the trouble of running Chicago rather than a domestic race such as next month's Yokohama International Women's Marathon if she were not in competitive shape, but if Nasukawa's expression at the Hokkaido finish line was any indication things have not been going according to plan.
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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