Bumped up an hour on short notice, the women's marathon was one of the events at the Tokyo Olympics where Japan hoped to get onto the podium, or at least into the top eight for the first time since national record holder Mizuki Noguchi's gold medal in Athens in 2004.
All three Japanese women, Honami Maeda, Ayuko Suzuki and Mao Ichiyama, were up in it early, Maeda doing her share of frontrunning in the earliest stages, but when the race really got moving only Ichiyama was left. After 32 km she lost steam and started to drop back, falling as low as 9th, but a lucky break with Kenyan-born Israeli Lonah Salpeter stopping and walking at 38 km while battling American Molly Seidel for bronze put Ichiyama back into 8th, where she stayed until she crossed the finish line in 2:30:13. "I've got no regrets about finishing 8th," she said post-race. "Thanks for cheering from so early in the morning."
Suzuki was 19th in 2:33:14 and Maeda 33rd in 2:35:28. Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir took gold in 2:27:20, knocking world record holder Brigid Kosgei back to silver in 2:27:36 and keeping Kosgei out of the exclusive club of people to both break a marathon world record and win Olympic marathon gold. Seidel hung on for bronze in 2:27:46 almost a minute up on 4th-placer Roze Dereje.
In the women's 10000 m, 5000 m national record holder Ririka Hironaka, 20, ran big again. In only her third time running 10000 m Hironaka was 7th in 31:00.71, making her the 4th-fastest Japanese woman ever and first in 25 years to make top 8 at the Olympics. Hironaka just outkicked Germany's Konstanze Klosterhalfen to finish as the top woman born outside Africa. The 10000 m national record is sure to be on her list of targets next. Hitomi Niiya and Yuka Ando were 21st and 22nd out of 24 finishers in 32:23.87 and 32:40.77.
photo © 2021 David Motozo Rubenstein, all rights reservedtext © 2021 Mika Tokairin, all rights reserved