Skip to main content

Olympic Marathoner Naoko Sakamoto Retires

http://www.asahi.com/sports/update/0120/SEB201301200008.html?tr=pc

translated by Brett Larner

Naoko Sakamoto (32, Team Tenmaya), 7th at the 2004 Athens Olympics, announced her retirement from competition on Jan. 20 after running her final race, the Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden, where she placed 7th on the opening stage.  "I still have the urge to get back to the top, but I just can't do the training I need to get there anymore," she said.  "I decided that it's time to stop.  I'm sad that I couldn't end it with a marathon."

Sakamoto graduated from Nishinomiya H.S. in Hyogo and joined the Tenmaya corporate team in 1999.  In 2003 she ran 2:21:51 at the Osaka International Women's Marathon, the Japanese debut marathon record.  Later the same year she was 4th in the Paris World Championships marathon, then won the 2004 Osaka International Women's Marathon to make the Athens Olympics.  Following Athens a series of injuries kept her from making another national team.

Note: Sakamoto's agent Brendan Reilly sent the following: I've been working with Naoko during her entire career at Tenmaya. She is certainly one of my all-time favorite athletes, as cheerful and well-mannered as anybody I've been with in this sport. Her sub-70:00 second half (when sub-70:00 marathon splits were still a rarity) to win the 2004 Osaka International Women's Marathon on a snowy, bone-chillingly cold day was one of the greatest pieces of running I've ever seen. I am fairly certain Naoko's split from 30K to 40K that day was quicker than her lifetime 10,000m PB.

It says a lot about the former depth of Japanese women marathoning that at two of her career highlights...4th at the Paris World Championships and 7th at the Athens Olympics...that would have been headline news in most marathoning countries, Naoko was still only the 3rd finisher among Japanese women.

If you can ever track down the rap video that some of her young running fans made for her before the 2004 Athens Olympics, try to post it. Great stuff!

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Chebii Returns - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) returns to lead the field for the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Chebii is one of three men in the field with recent 2:06 times, his 2:06:07 in Amsterdam two years ago leading Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) to form a clear trio of favorites.

Making up the second pack are four current sub-2:10 Japanese men, 2017 Gold Coast winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei), and Sasaki's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. The addition of sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama in his second shot at the marathon after a failed debut in Tokyo two years ago makes for a formidable quartet of men from 2017 and 2018 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei all aligned in training and talent.

With Japan's depth it's never surprising to see a relatively anonymous runner make a breakthrough and factor into the action. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) was one of the …

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Upcoming race schedule: Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan
Mar. 25: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama
Apr. 16: Boston Marathon, U.S.A.
June 2: ASICS Stockholm Marathon, Sweden
July 1: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia
Aug. 26: New Caledonia International Marathon, New Caledonia
Sept. 2: Wakkanai Heiwa Marathon, Hokk…