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Chebet Outlasts Rain for the Win at Lake Biwa, Sakuda 4th in 2:08:59

Japan's 2020 Olympic marathon selection wrapped up in cold, rainy and windy conditions at simultaneous races at Lake Biwa and in Nagoya. The men at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon had to break the week-old 2:05:29 national record set by Suguru Osako in Tokyo to replace him on the team, a pretty tough ask in any case but even more so given the conditions. After a starting gun malfunction delayed the start 10 minutes, virtually unheard-of in Japan, the pacers and a lead pack of nearly 50 gave it a go, slow through the first 5 km as they warmed back up but getting onto track for a sub-2:06 before too much time went by.

Early casualties as the pace picked up included past winner Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) and Salah-Eddine Bounasr (Morocco), both DNFs. After 20 km it drifted back toward a 2:07 race, but even at that speed most of the Japanese favorites dropped away, leaving a relatively inexperienced domestic crew up against an international quintet when the last pacers stepped off at 30 km. Osaka police officer Madoka Tanihara went to the front, but a trio made up of 2:05-level Kenyans Evans Chebet and Felix Kiprotich and South African Stephen Mokoka weren't having any of it. Kiprotich initially led the charge away, a move only Naoya Sakuda (JR Higashi Nihon) could try to follow.

At 35 km Chebet laid down another surge that ended up being the one that broke the race apart, running unchallenged through the rain back to the stadium to break the tape in 2:07:29. Mokoka was next in 2:08:05, with Kiprotich holding Sakuda off for 3rd 2:08:48 to 2:08:59. Three other Japanese men, Shoma Yamamoto (NTT Nishi Nihon), Shoya Okuno (Toyota Kyushu) and Kenya Sonota (JR Higashi Nihon) also cleared 2:10 for the first time, with Tanzanian Alphonce Simbu taking 6th in 2:09:23 to make it eight men sub-2:10. And in conditions like these were that is a quality race.

Running the first km in a plastic raincoat, Australian Liam Adams took 13th in a PB of 2:10:48 to put himself into the Australian Olympic team. But Sakuda running 2:08:59 meant that he wouldn't be joining Adams in Sapporo, the clock ticking over 2:05:29 when he was still near the 41 km point to lock in Osako's place on the Japanese Olympic team. That means the final lineup, should the Olympics go ahead, will be:

Suguru Osako (Nike) - 2:05:29, 3rd at MGC Olympic trials race
Yuma Hattori (Toyota - Nike shoes) - 2:07:27, 2nd at MGC Olympic trials race
Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu - Nike shoes) - 2:08:16, 1st at MGC Olympic trials race
alternate - Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko - Nike shoes) - 2:10:12, 4th at MGC Olympic trials race

Not a bad national team for any country, and as the product of a brand-new team selection process that brought out their best one that should be a cause for optimism. Let's hope they get the chance to show what they can really do this summer.

75th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

Otsu, Shiga, 3/8/20
complete results and splits

1. Evans Chebet (Kenya)- 2:07:29
2. Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 2:08:05
3. Felix Kiprotich (Kenya) - 2:08:48
4. Naoya Sakuda (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:08:59 - PB
5. Shoma Yamamoto (Japna/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:09:18 - debut
6. Alphonce Simbu (Tanzania) - 2:09:23
7. Shoya Okuno (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:09:28 - PB
8. Kenya Sonoda (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:09:50 - PB
9. Felix Chemonges (Uganda) - 2:10:08
10. Koki Yoshioka (Japan/Chuo Hatsujo) - 2:10:13 - PB
11. Ryo Matsumoto (Japan/Toyota) - 2:10:32 - PB
12. Kengo Suzuki (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:10:37
13. Liam Adams (Australia) - 2:10:48 - PB
14. Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:11:27
15. Madoka Tanihara (Japan/Osaka Police) - 2:11:39 - PB
16. Kyoya Tsujino (Japan/NTN) - 2:12:04 - PB
17. Byambajav Tseveenravdan (Mongolia) - 2:12:32
18. Masatoshi Sakata (Japan/Chuo Hatsujo) - 2:12:36 - PB
19. Yukio Fujimura (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 2:13:07
20. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Japan/Toyota) - 2:13:46
DNF - Salah-Eddine Bounasr (Morocco)
DNF - Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Track Tokyo)
DNF - Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko)
DNF - Samuel Ndungu (Kenya)
DNF - Natsuki Terada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon)

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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j said…
I think it was debuts for Yamamoto, the two Chuo Hatsujo guys, and maybe Tsujino. Also, Tanihara PB'd by 20 minutes and Okuno by 10 minutes!

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