translated and edited by Brett Larner
On Feb. 11 it was learned that Kaori Yoshida (34, Runners Pulse), the top Japanese woman at 2nd overall in the first Rio Olympics domestic selection race at last November's Saitama International Women's Marathon, has entered the final Rio selection race, the Mar. 13 Nagoya Women's Marathon. Also entered is Kayoko Fukushi (33, Wacoal), who ran 2:22:17 to break the JAAF-mandated sub-2:22:30 Olympic standard and win the second Rio selection race, January's Osaka International Women's Marathon. With both already in contention for the Rio team the pair's entries creates a highly unusual situation at the final selection race.
The final selection race for the Olympic women's marathon team looks set to become a one-shot battle. Appearing as part of a radio event in Tokyo on the 11th, Yoshida said, "I've been planning all along to run either Tokyo or Nagoya, but when I saw Fukushi's time in Osaka I immediately decided to run Nagoya." Along with Fukushi, Yoshida's entry throws down a challenge to tough competition like national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (37, Sysmex) and London Olympian Ryoko Kizaki (30, Daihatsu) who are focused solely on Nagoya.
Fukushi's entry into Nagoya, her second selection race in just over a month and a half, is controversial, but for Yoshida the challenge is tougher. In Saitama her time of 2:28:43 was a PB, but with Mai Ito (31, Otsuka Seiyaku) having scored a place on the Rio team by finishing 7th at last summer's World Championships Yoshida is third in line behind Ito and Fukushi's Osaka run. There is a chance she could still be chosen for the team without running Nagoya, but for the last four years the winning time in Nagoya has been in the 2:22-2:24 range. Every time, the fastest Japanese woman in Nagoya has also been much faster than Yoshida's 2:28. With the JAAF looking primarily at whether athletes hit their standard and at how they do in the first selection race they run, unless Yoshida's rivals run badly in Nagoya the only route open to her is to break 2:22:30.
There are only two places left on the Olympic team. Not belonging to a corporate team, the 34-year-old Yoshida got where she did on her own. Yoshida will take a big step toward her dream of making the Olympics when she runs the Feb. 21 Ome 30 km in preparation for Nagoya.
Kaori Yoshida - born Aug. 4, 1981 in Sakado, Saitama. 34 years old. 156 cm, 41 kg. Began running her first year of junior high school and joined the Sekisui Kagaku corporate team after graduating from Kawagoe Joshi H.S. in 2000. Passing through other teams including Shiseido and Amino Vital AC, last fall she joined the Runners Pulse amateur running club. Her marathon achievements include wins at the 2006 Hokkaido Marathon and 2010 and 2012 Gold Coast Marathons.
Translator's note: The article and in particular the bio at the end fail to mention that Yoshida is the only Japanese athlete to have ever been publicly suspended for doping after testing positive for EPO at the 2012 Honolulu Marathon.