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

Kawauchi Named Captain of Japanese National Team for London World Championships

At a JAAF event at the British Embassy in Tokyo on July 21, marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (30, Saitama Pref. Gov't) was named men's captain of the Japanese national team for next month's London World Championships. Javelin throw national record holder Yuki Ebihara (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) was chosen as women's captain.

In a wide-ranging and impassioned speech 4 minutes and 20 seconds long, Kawauchi stoked the team's morale as he told attendees, "I think that there are athletes here today who look at London as just a checkpoint along the way to the Tokyo Olympics. But as a representative of Japan it is not enough just to be there competing. I feel it strongly. You must produce results at this event, the London World Championships. This is the task assigned to each and every one of us. It is critical that we work seriously to achieve our goals. The Japanese people want nothing less. What can we as athletes do for them? More than just wearing the uniform, each of us mus…

'$500,000 USD Prized Asian Premier Marathon Series 2017-18 Launched in Beijing'

http://athleticsasia.org/index.php/k2-component/143-500-000-usd-prized-asian-premier-marathon-series-2017-18-launched-in-beijing

A very interesting World Marathon Majors-style development with prize money only for Asian athletes. Equally interesting is the absence of a Japanese race in the series. Japanese marathoners would dominate the series if they ran its three component races, their only real current competition in Asia coming from East African-born Bahraini athletes.

Hayakawa and Ichiyama Win Shibetsu Half

2nd in 2015 and 3rd last year, Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota) finally succeeded in scoring 1st at the Shibetsu Half Marathon, outrunning 2013-14 winner Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu) by 6 seconds to win in 1:03:38. Hayakawa pushed it from the early stages of the race, Imai the only one to try to stay with him but ultimately losing touch. 2016 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Melaku Abera (Kurosaki Harima) was 3rd in 1:03:51.

士別ハーフマラソン
日差しが強くなってきました…💦 pic.twitter.com/qRfUei3aRt — はたのまき (@machakin77) July 23, 2017
The women's field was split between two distances, 10 km and half marathon. Kanako Takemoto (Daihatsu) won the 10 km in 34:27 by a margin of almost 10 seconds over an Otsuka Seiyaku trio led by Ayaka Inoue. 2017 National Cross-Country champion and last year's 10 km runner-up Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) took the top spot in the half marathon, outrunning teammate and national record holder Kayoko Fukushi and others to win in 1:14:01. Fukushi finished 4th in 1:15:41 behind last ye…