Sunday's Osaka International Women's Marathon features an interesting showdown between the race's last three winners, defending champion Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine), all-time Japanese #9 Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya), and, in her final race before retiring from the jitsugyodan corporate system, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren). Gamera-Shmyrko won last year's Osaka over future World Championships bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) in a PB 2:23:58 with the kind of miraculously fast second half she and other Eastern European women have produced in recent years, especially at Japanese marathons. Since then she was a DNF at November's New York City Marathon, where Shigetomo was 11th in 2:31:54. Shigetomo has never run well in a marathon since her 2:23:23 win at Osaka in 2012, but she has been on top of her game this ekiden season most recently with a 31:50 win on the Jan. 12 National Women's Ekiden's 10 km anchor stage. Akaba, whose four marathons last year included a 3rd-place finish in London and a course record win at the Gold Coast Marathon, ran well at last month's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon with a 1:09:24 for 2nd, but on the same National Women's Ekiden stage Shigetomo won two weeks ago Akaba placed only 24th in 33:25. Given the trio's past tendencies Shigetomo seems most likely to be the one pushing early on with Akaba and Gamera-Shmyrko going to work later in the race, but either way it could be a fast day if the predicted unseasonally high temperatures hold off.
Other potential company includes last year's 3rd and 4th placers Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) and Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) and the debuting Sayo Nomura (Team Daiichi Seimei), all in the race for potential selection for the Japanese team for this year's Asian Games in South Korea. Watanabe showed a lot of promise last year in Osaka, and having beaten Akaba to win August's Hokkaido Marathon she looks like the best bet to join the list of contenders for the win. The veteran Ozaki was unexpectedly strong last year and should be up front at least through the first half of the race if she is in similar shape. 2011 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Nomura is coached by 1991 World Championships marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita. She ran well through most of 2013 in preparation to make her marathon debut in Osaka and could be a factor. One outside possibility if the race plays out at the 2:25 level is Karolina Jarzynska (Poland), who ran a 2:26:45 PB at the Lodz Marathon after finishing 6th in Osaka last year.
Simultaneous with the elite marathon is the mass-participation Osaka Half Marathon, which is gradually growing into a decently competitive event with 38 elite men and 12 elite women. Along with a number of good corporate men, Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudeno), who ran a course record 1:08:24 to beat Akaba at last month's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon, is scheduled to run versus 2010 winner Yuri Kano (Team Shiseido) and 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal). It will be a surprise if Chepyego doesn't better Osaka's 1:09:55 course record.
The Osaka International Women's Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide on Fuji TV starting at 12:10 p.m. on Sunday. Overseas fans' best bet to watch online is likely the premium key version of Keyhole TV, seemingly reliable at $5.00 USD for 30 days of access.
33rd Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field
32. Risa Shigetomo (Japan/Team Tenmaya) - 2:23:23 (Osaka Int'l 2012)
33. Mari Ozaki (Japan/Team Noritz) - 2:23:30 (Osaka Int'l 2003)
1. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:23:58 (Osaka Int'l 2013)
34. Yukiko Akaba (Japan/Team Hokuren) - 2:24:09 (London 2011)
35. Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Team Edion) - 2:25:56 (Osaka Int'l 2013)
2. Karolina Jarzynska (Poland) - 2:26:45 (Lodz 2013)
3. Marta Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:28:02 (Kosice 2013)
4. Hellen Mugo (Kenya) - 2:29:59 (Kosice 2012)
5. Louise Damen (Great Britain) - 2:30:00 (London 2011)
6. Natalya Puchkova (Russia) - 2:30:17 (Hannover 2012)
7. Deborah Toniolo (Italy) - 2:31:20 (Padova 2009)
36. Hiroko Miyauchi (Japan/Team Kyocera) - 2:32:20 (Yokohama Int'l 2009)
37. Sayo Nomura (Team Daiichi Seimei) - debut - 1:10:27 (Sapporo Half 2013)
Yumiko Hara - 2:23:48 (Osaka Int'l 2007)
Yumiko Hara - 2:23:48 (Osaka Int'l 2007)
Sairi Maeda (Bukkyo Univ.) - debut - 32:51.53 (Fukagawa 2013)
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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