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Gosa Over Habtegebrel in Ethiopian Bahraini Duel at Saitama International Marathon

For the second year in a row Bahraini Shitaye Habtegebrel found herself knocked down to 2nd in the Saitama International Marathon's home straight, this time to fellow Ethiopian-born emigrant Dalila Gosa.

Part of a group of nine that immediately separated from the main body of the elite women-only race behind three pacers, both Gosa and Habtegebrel stayed at the front of the pack on mid-2:25 to low-2:26 pace as its five Japanese constituents and lone Ethiopian national Fatuma Sado dropped off one by one. When the last pacer stepped off at 30 km Habtegebrel and Gosa took turns leading in a successful effort to drop Kenyan Sylvia Kibet.

Last year Habtegebrel lost out to Flomena Cheych Daniel of Kenya by 3 seconds in the home straight, both of them ultimately having their times disallowed due to poor direction on the final corner. This time both Gosa and Habtegebrel successfully turned at the right spot thanks to improved course marking and marshaling, but Habtegebrel again lacked the closing speed to seal the win. Gosa took 1st in a PB of 2:25:35, Habtegebrel this time 4 seconds behind.

Kibet held on to 3rd in 2:28:38, exactly where the top Japanese woman needed to be to clear the 2:29:00 standard for qualification for Japan's 2020 Olympic marathon trials event, next September's MGC Race. It looked as though the last two Japanese women left in the pack, Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo) and Saki Tokoro (Kyocera) might be able to work together to stay under 2:29 pace, but when Tokoro fell off Imada began to lag. A rally from 30 to 35 km gave her a chance of clearing the qualification cutoff by about 30 seconds, but despite taking almost 2 1/2 minutes off her best Imada came up just short with a 2:29:35 for 4th.

London World Championships team member Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) overtook Tokoro for 5th in 2:31:07, with Tokoro setting a new PB of 2:32:11 for 6th. Opting again this year to run the mass-participation race starting 30 minutes after the elite race after winning it three years in a row, local amateur Tomomi Sawahata (Sawahatters) took over 4 minutes off her best to win in a course record 2:35:58. Her time would have put her 9th in the elite race just behind the equally interesting Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead), who was 8th in the elite race in 2:34:47 in her fourth marathon in four weeks. There is a world of different motivations out there, and not everyone wants to follow the same dream.

With Saitama the elite-level Japanese women's marathon season pretty well comes to an end for 2018, the absolute last shot coming at the minor Hofu Yomiuri Marathon next weekend. The Japanese women's average of their ten fastest marathons of the year was 2:24:59, their best since 2005 and fourth-best ever. But with With Gosa and Habtegebrel's pair of times the Bahraini women's average for 2018 came to 2:24:37, surpassing the Japanese women for the first time. Bahrain ends the year ranked #3 behind the homelands of its athletes, Ethiopia and Kenya.

4th Saitama International Marathon

Saitama, 12/9/18
complete results

Elite Women - 9:10 a.m. start
1. Dalila Gosa (Bahrain) - 2:25:35 - PB
2. Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:25:39
3. Sylvia Jebiwot Kibet (Kenya) - 2:28:38
4. Marie Imada (Japan/Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:29:35 - PB
5. Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:31:07
6. Saki Tokoro (Japan/Kyocera) - 2:32:11 - PB
7. Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Brooks) - 2:34:21
8. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:34:47
9. Yuko Mizuguchi (Japan/Denso) - 2:36:59
10. Asami Furuse (Kyocera) - 2:41:36
-----
DNF - Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia)

Mass-Participation Women - 9:40 a.m. start
1. Tomomi Sawahata (Sawahatters) - 2:35:58 - CR, PB

Mass-Participation Men - 9:40 a.m. start
1. Naoki Inoue - 2:20:03

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Comments

Yokohama said…
Sawahata and Yositomi just keep going.

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