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MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier - Suguru Osako

Suguru Osako

age: 28
sponsor: Nike Oregon Project
graduated from: Saku Chosei H.S., Waseda University

best time inside MGC window:
2:05:50, 3rd, 2018 Chicago Marathon – NR

PB: 2:05:50, 3rd, 2018 Chicago Marathon – NR

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:08.40 (NR, 2015) 10000 m: 27:38.31 (2013) half marathon: 1:01:13 (2017)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
DNF, 2019 Tokyo Marathon
3rd, 2018 Chicago Marathon, 2:05:50 – NR
3rd, 2017 Fukuoka International Marathon, 2:07:19

other major results:
1st, 2019 Hot Trot Half Marathon, 1:02:23 – CR
3rd, 2019 HDC Abashiri 10000 m, 27:57.41
2nd, 2019 Payton Jordan Invitational 5000 m, 13:40.48
24th, 2018 Valencia World Half Marathon Championships, 1:01:56
1st, 2018 National Cross Country Championships 10 km, 29:53
1st, 2017 National Championships 10000 m, 28:35.47
3rd, 2017 Boston Marathon, 2:10:28
6th, 2017 Marugame Half Marathon, 1:01:13 – PB
12th, 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics 5000 m Heat 2, 13:31.45
17th, 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics 10000 m, 27:51.94
1st, 2016 National Championships 5000 m, 13:37.13
1st, 2016 National Championships 10000 m, 28:07.44
7th, 2015 Beijing World Championships 5000 m Heat 1, 13:45.82
6th, 2015 Night of Athletics 5000 m, 13:08.40 – NR
2nd, 2015 National Championships 5000 m, 13:37.72
1st, 2015 New Year Ekiden First Stage (12.3 km), 34:47
2nd, 2013 Hakone Ekiden Third Stage (21.5 km), 1:04:44
1st, 2012 Hakone Ekiden First Stage (21.4 km), 1:02:03
1st, 2011 Hakone Ekiden First Stage (21.4 km), 1:02:22
1st, 2010 Ageo City Half Marathon, 1:01:47 – Asian U20 AR

Osako has been at the top of the game in Japan since high school, along with Akinobu Murasawa part of the best-ever all-Japanese high school team at Saku Chosei H.S., then going on to set an Asian U20 area record in his half marathon debut his first year at Waseda University and win the Hakone Ekiden’s Frist Stage his first two years there.

His third year at Waseda Osako was beaten by Yuta Shitara in a classic Hakone battle, and when he started training with the Nike Oregon Project while still at Waseda he began a string of national records on the track that peaked with a 13:08.40 5000 m record in 2015. That didn’t translate to international championship success, as he came up short of making the final in either the 2015 Beijing Olympics or 2016 Rio Olympics, so the next season it was time to move up.

In early 2017 Osako returned to the half marathon distance with a 1:01:13 PB at the Marugame Half. Two months later, a 2:10:28 debut for 3rd at the Boston Marathon. A 2:07:19 in Fukuoka later that year to qualify for the MGC Race. And then a 2:05:50 national record, again for 3rd, at last year’s Chicago Marathon. With that his position was solidified, but at this year’s Tokyo Marathon he suffered his first setback in the marathon, dropping out early in the second half after going through halfway in 1:02:05 lurking behind Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin) and Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu).

Track season post-Tokyo saw Osako regroup and qualify for the Japanese National Championships in the 5000 m, lash out at the JAAF on Twitter for not letting him into the Nationals 10000 m without the standard, then not run the 5000 m. Despite that, he ran a good 27:57.41 for 3rd in the Abashiri 10000 m in July, beating Sato, Shitara and MGC qualifier Daiji Kawai (Toenec) among others. A couple of weeks later he dropped the biggest indication of where he’s at in his MGC prep, soloing a 1:02:23 for the win in hot conditions at the Hot Trot Half Marathon in Texas.

There’s never been much doubt that Osako was one of the favorites to make the 2020 Olympic team, the only real ones arising with his DNF in Tokyo which was ascribed to the cold and rainy conditions even though he had some snags coming into the race. The real question is can he win it.

The DNF aside, Osako has run all three marathons exactly the same way, exerting minimum effort at the back of the lead pack until the real action happens, then pushing on to take 3rd as the contenders for the win recede into the distance. He hasn’t shown much inclination to lead races since his second-year Hakone Ekiden stage win, and throughout his track career he’s over-estimated his closing speed, even in Abashiri this summer. To be sure, he doesn’t need to win. 2nd place will get him to the Olympics. 3rd will almost definitely be good enough. A long push will probably be the move that makes that happen, but everybody else knows it and will for sure be anticipating it. Will Osako stick to the playbook even so, or pull something different out of his hat? Just about the only thing he could do that would really surprise would be to break character and lead from the start.

Next profile: Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu).

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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