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The Olympic Trials Qualification Deadline Draws Near - Osaka International Women's Marathon Preview

We're getting into the last few months of qualification for September's MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials, and for Japanese women's Sunday's Osaka International Women's Marathon represents one of the last chances to make it. One of only eight to have qualified so far, Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) is one of three Japanese women in the field to have broken 2:24, along with 2016 Osaka winner Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) and 2014 Yokohama winner Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei). But none of that trio has run that kind of time since early 2016, and for both Fukushi and Tanaka this will be the first marathon since they represented Japan in the marathon in Rio.

That seems to be the overall impression of the domestic field in Osaka this year, it being mostly made up of people at their best two or three years ago but hoping to get it back together well enough to qualify for the trials. They'll have to be under 2:28:00 if among the top three Japanese women excluding Ohara, and under 2:27:00 if in the next three. Tanaka's former teammate Hanae Tanaka (Shiseido), no relation, has a slightly lower bar to clear, only needing to beat 2:28:20 regardless of place to get in via a two-race sub-2:28:00 average option for qualifying. If there is any hope of some newer names breaking through it's likely to rest in Natsuki Omori (Daihatsu), a teammate of last year's winner Mizuki Matsuda, and Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera), coached by former men's half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato.

Fukushi, Tanaka and Ohara have the best times in the field in the last three years, but not far behind is a trio of 2:24-level Africans made up of Sutume Asefa Kebede (Ethiopia), Bornes Chepkirui (Kenya) and last-minute addition Abebech Afework (Ethiopia). Having run her time en route to winning Prague last year Chepkirui looks to be the runner at the front end of the field most on top of her game. Osaka is forecast to get some snow the night before the race, but with clouds and 8˚C temperatures expected at the start on Sunday the chances should be good for a winning time in the 2:23~2:24 range. Fuji TV will be broadcasting the marathon live at 12:00 local time, with English-language commentary running @JRNLive.

For years Osaka has held a men's and women's half marathon alongside the women's full. Its level has been building annually, and last year the Osaka Half Marathon really came into its own with the top ten men breaking 63 minutes, two women under 72 and a Taiwanese women's national record by Chien-Ho Hsieh who will be stepping up to the marathon this year. It won't get more than a flash onscreen during the marathon broadcast as runners go the opposite direction from the marathoners, but the half will be streamed live on the race website. Expect to see more quality results post-race.

38th Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field Highlights

Osaka, 1/27/19
complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Kayoko Fukushi (Japan/Wacoal) - 2:22:17 (Osaka Int'l 2016)
Tomomi Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 2:23:19 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:23:20 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Sutume Asefa Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:24:00 (Dubai 2016)
Bornes Chepkirui (Kenya) - 2:24:19 (Prague 2018)
Abebech Afework (Ethiopia) - 2:24:27 (Amsterdam 2016)
Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz) - 2:25:44 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Eunice Jeptoo (Kenya) - 2:26:13 (Eindhoven 2017)
Hanae Tanaka (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:26:19 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) - 2:26:41 (Xiamen 2018)
Ayaka Fujimoto (Japan/Kyocera) - 2:27:08 (Tokyo 2017)
Hisami Ishii (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:27:35 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Brooks) - 2:27:54 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:24 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:30:09 (Fukuoka 2018)
Yinli He (China) - 2:30:26 (Wuxi 2017)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:31:31 (Tokyo 2018)
Yui Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:45 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Hitomi Mizuguchi (Japan/Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 2:33:10 (Osaka Int'l 2018)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:33:55 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:38 (Osaka 2017)
Nolene Conrad (South Africa) - 2:34:39 (Capetown 2018)
Mitsuko Ino (Japan/Rinkstyle) - 2:34:39 (Osaka 2017)
Chien-Ho Hsieh (Taiwan) - 2:40:44 (Taipei 2018)
Honoka Tanaike (Japan/Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - debut - 1:12:20 (Matsue 2016)
Natsuki Omori (Japan/Daihatsu) - debut - 32:24.27 (Fukagawa 2018)

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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