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Matsuda Breaks Into Olympic Team Contention With 2:21:47 Win in Osaka

4th at the MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials after having run the fastest Japanese women's time during the qualifying window, 2018 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) had to break her own PB of 2:22:23 to have a shot to replace MGC 3rd-placer Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) on the provisional Olympic roster. And she did it.

A local girl by birth, Matsuda was right alongside new half marathon national record holder Hitomi Niiya (Sekisui Kagaku) as Niiya paced the first 12 km ahead of target pace, on track for 2:19:40 at 10 km before handing over to the other pacers. The pace killed off the pretenders one by one, then Ohara, then former half marathon record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal), who dropped out just past 25 km, leaving a core group of eight at halfway with Matsuda the only Japanese woman left at 1:09:54 ahead of the two remaining pacers.

From there til the last pacer's departure at 30 km Matsuda kept burning off the competition, only Ethiopian-born Bahraini Mimi Belete left with her former compatriot Sintayehu Lewetegn just behind. Matsuda jetted away at 30 km to open a 50 m lead that held steady until after 35 km. Belete and Lewetegn looked to be regaining ground, but another surge from Matsuda at 37 km put them both away.

From there to the tape Matsuda was unchallenged, racing the clock to stay under 2:22:23 and rewarded with a second hometown win in a PB 2:21:47, beating her previous self to go under the mark to knock Ohara down to Olympic alternate but still tantalizingly in range for everyone at the front of the pack in Nagoya in six weeks' time. Post-race Matsuda was teary-eyed, seeming to echo Yuta Shitara (Honda) in saying she'd being shooting for a national record more than an Olympic spot. Belete was next across the line in 2:22:40, Lewetegn 3rd in 2:23:02, with another Ethiopian, Meskerem Assefa, 4th in 2:23:31.

Further back in the 2nd pack, Australian Lisa Weightman and amateur Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) held steady with a half dozen others on low-2:27 pace until just before 30 km, when Weightman made a move to keep herself in range of Australian Olympic selection. Yamaguchi, who ran a 6-minute PB and 4-minute CR of 2:27:39 to win November's Kobe Marathon, went with her. From 30 to 35 km the pair split 16:57, just 3 seconds slower than Matsuda, before Weightman began to inch away. Weightman recorded the fastest closing splits in the field to take 5th in 2:26:02, putting her in solid contention for the Australian Olympic team.

From 30 km to the finish Yamaguchi ran down Ohara and every other Japanese woman ahead of her, clocking one second faster than Matsuda after 30 km to take 7th overall, overtaking defending champ Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) and negative splitting her way to a 2:26:35 PB for 2nd Japanese. Her time was the best-ever by a Japanese amateur, earning her special recognition from race organizers who awarded her their "Brave Fighter" MVP award post-race.

Another amateur, Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto), ran a three-minute PB of 2:28:51, taking 16th in a four-way sprint finish against Katharina Steinruck (Germany), the daughter of four-time Osaka winner Katrin Dorre, 2019 Doha World Championships top Japanese woman Mizuki Tanimoto (Tenmaya), and corporate leaguer Misaki Nishida (Edion). A total of 17 women broke 2:30, a solid day in Osaka history.

In the concurrent Osaka Half Marathon, a massive men's pack on 62-flat pace stayed together almost until the entrance to the stadium. In the mad dash over the 3/4 of a track lap to the finish tape, Tatsuya Maruyama (Yachiyo Kogyo) kicked free to win in 1:01:58. The top ten all finished within 11 seconds of him, with Swedish marathon national record holder David Nilsson rounding out the eight-deep podium in a PB 1:02:05.

Women's winner Yumi Yoshikawa (Uniqlo) didn't wait as long as Maruyama, starting a long surge from almost 5 km out to take the win in 1:10:29. Yukina Ueda (Tsukuba Univ.) was next in 1:10:49, with collegiate 10000 m NR holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Daihatsu) 3rd in 1:11:13 in what was likely to be her last race before retirement.

39th Osaka International Women's Marathon

Osaka, 1/26/20
complete results

1. Mizuki Matsuda (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:21:47 - PB
2. Mimi Belete (Bahrain) - 2:22:40
3. Sintayehu Lewetegn (Ethiopia) - 2:23:03
4. Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia) - 2:23:31
5. Lisa Weightman (Australia) - 2:26:02
6. Bornes Jepkirui (Kenya) - 2:26:24
7. Haruka Yamaguchi (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:26:35 - PB
8. Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) - 2:27:18
9. Haftemnesh Tesfay (Ethiopia) - 2:27:50
10. Hanae Tanaka (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:27:51
11. Ayaka Inoue (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:27:54 - PB
12. Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia) - 2:28:03 - NR
13. Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:28:12
14. Katharina Steinruck (Germany) - 2:28:48
15. Mizuki Tanimoto (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:28:48
16. Shiho Kaneshige (Japan/GRlab Kanto) - 2:28:51 - PB
17. Misaki Nishida (Japan/Edion) - 2:28:51 - PB
18. Hitomi Mizuguchi (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:32:33 - PB
19. Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Brooks) - 2:32:48
20. Shiho Takechi (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:34:09
21. Asuka Yamamoto (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) - 2:36:14
22. Miku Daido (Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:39:00
23. Nozomi Kawato (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 2:39:01
24. Sumika Okumura (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) - 2:41:05
25. Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) - 2:41:06
DNF - Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal)

Osaka Half Marathon

Osaka, 1/26/20
complete results

1. Tatsuya Maruyama (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:01:58
2. Naoya Takahashi (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:02:01
3. Riki Nakanishi (Toenec) - 1:02:02
4. Ryoma Takeuchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:02:02
5. Keita Naito (Aichi Seiko) - 1:02:02
6. Masahiro Kan (Aisan Kogyo) - 1:02:04
7. Tetsuya Hakuto (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:02:05
8. David Nilsson (Sweden) - 1:02:05 - PB
9. Kazuki Matsumura (Aichi Seiko) - 1:02:08
10. Ryuji Okada (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:09

1. Yumi Yoshikawa (Uniqlo) - 1:10:29
2. Yukina Ueda (Tsukuba Univ.) - 1:10:49
3. Hikari Yoshimoto (Daihatsu) - 1:11:13
4. Natsuki Omori (Daihatsu) - 1:11:37
5. Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 1:12:23
6. Hina Yanagidani (Kansai Univ.) - 1:12:44
7. Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:13:11
8. Aina Takatani (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:13:12
9. Nana Matsumoto (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:13:15
10. Sakie Arai (Higo Ginko) - 1:13:44

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Eric in Seattle said…
I think Ms Matsuda is one of my favorite runners. Has a personality, won two 10k titles, ran two 2:22 marathons, then was running poorly for some months -- but now just hammered it. A question -- that nice lady who does her acupuncture and is in a lot of videos with her (in the video at the finish, she is the second person to hug her at the finishing line in red hat at TV Staff). I don't speak Japanese, is that a friend, a relative, seems like a very nice person. Oh, I bought you ten coffees again. Eric in Seattle
Brett Larner said…
Hello, Eric. The woman you mention is Matsuda's mother. Thanks for your support.
Andrew Armiger said…
Astounding. The Japanese are putting on a clinic for the rest of the (non-East African) world how to effectively support and incentivize marathon development.

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