The 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon, the second of Japan's three-race domestic Olympic marathon team selection races, is on for this Sunday, Jan. 29. Broadcast live on Fuji TV starting at noon Japan time, overseas viewers have the chance to catch the race via Keyhole TV. Schedule permitting, JRN plans to cover the race via Twitter @JRNLive.
The 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon was to be about one thing: the return of marathon national record holder and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) in a showdown against half-marathon national record holder and ascendant marathoner Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) for a place on the Olympic team. Nobody else in the field stood a realistic chance of competing in Noguchi and Fukushi went at it full-strength. With Noguchi's last-withdrawal after a reported injury to her left leg the race remains a single-plot story: how fast will Fukushi go?
And that's it, really. Even more so in light of the incredible results at today's Dubai Marathon where four Ethiopian women broke the former national record of 2:20:42, two of them sub-2:20, and formerly Japan-based Lucy Wangui Kabuu (Kenya) likewise went under the 2:20 mark. Fukushi's debut in Osaka in 2008 was a glorious implosion, but her return to the distance at last fall's Chicago Marathon was reasonably solid. Going out at sub-2:20 pace she faded to a 2:24:38, but even that is faster than anyone else in the field has ever run with the exception of veterans Constantina Dita (Romania) and, scheduled to run in the general division, Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya). Neither of them has approached a 2:24 in years.
So, how fast will Fukushi go? Hard from the start? Sit behind the designated pacers until 25 km and then push? Wait until 30 km? The minimum goal is of course the win, but if it's not faster than 2:23, something a Japanese woman hasn't done since Noguchi's last marathon in 2007, it will feel hard to honestly call it a success. Anything slower and she is opening up the door for someone else in the field having a diamond day to steal the win like Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) did from 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) in the Yokohama selection race. Ozaki's teammate Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) or Sakamoto's teammate Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) seem like the mostly likely candidates for a breakthrough, but it's hard to see either going under 2:23. Neither do there seem to be any challengers among the small field of five foreign invited athletes. A blowup or bad day would open things up to a more interesting race and a chance for someone unexpected like Nojiri or Shigetomo to make the London team, but otherwise we're looking at a solo time trial or one-woman push over the last 10-12 km. How fast will Fukushi go? Place your bets now.
2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field
and selected general division entrants
click here for complete elite field
click here for complete elite field
1. Constantina Dita (Romania) - 2:21:30 (Chicago '05)
2. Lidiya Grigoryeva (Russia) - 2:25:10 (Los Angeles '06)
3. Mihaela Botezan (Romania) - 2:25:32 (London '03)
4. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:28:14 (Krakow '11)
5. Irene Kemunto Mogaka (Kenya) - 2:30:10 (Los Angeles '09)
32. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 2:24:38 (Chicago '11)
33. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:25:10 (Hokkaido '09)
34. Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:25:29 (London '11)
35. Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:11 (Hokkaido '02)
36. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:26:55 (Osaka Int'l 08)
37. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 2:31:28 (London '11)
101. Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya) - 2:21:51 (Osaka Int'l '03)
61. Aniko Kalovics (Hungary)
62. Julia Mumbi (Kenya)
63. Chizuru Ideta (Team Daihatsu)
64. Kumi Ogura (Team Shikoku Denryoku)
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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