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29 Women and 67 Men - Final List of Qualifiers for Oct. 15 MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials

With Sunday's Tartan Ottawa International Marathon the qualifying window for the Oct. 15 MGC Race, Japan's marathon trials for the 2024 Paris Olympics, came to a close. When the JAAF introduced this format for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a total of 15 women and 34 men made the tough standards. This time, with identical standards for women and even tougher ones for men, 29 women and 67 men made it, double the numbers on both sides.

At the MGC Race, the top two finishers will earn guaranteed places on the Paris team. The 3rd placer will have a provisional spot, with the 4th and 5th placers named provisional alternates. If anyone runs under TBA time standards at one of the winter 2023-24 domestic marathons they'll have the chance to steal the 3rd spot on the team from the 3rd placer at the MGC Race, keeping those races relevant and the whole lead-up to the Olympics exciting.

Among women, all three members of the Tokyo Olympics marathon team, Mao Ichiyama (Shiseido), Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) and Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) qualified again, along with alternate Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu). Yuka Ando (Wacoal), Mizuki Tanimoto (Tenmaya), Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) and Reia Iwade (Denso) also qualified again, meaning over half the field from last time will be back.

Among men, Suguru Osako (GMO) is the only Tokyo Olympian to make the list again, along with alternate Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko), NR holder Kengo Suzuki (Fujitsu) and 13 others, making just under half of last time's qualifiers will return.

With both the World Championships and Asian Games happening a short time before the MGC Race and quality teams at both, it's not clear how many of the top people will try to double and how many will give the MGC Race a miss and go for the time standard a few months later. #2-ranked woman Matsuda, #6-ranked Rika Kaseda (Daihatsu) and #7-ranked Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku), and #2-ranked man Ichitaka Yamashita (Mitsubishi Juko), #3-ranked Kenya Sonota (JR Higashi Nihon) and #5-ranked Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyota) will run Worlds.

The women's team at the Asian Games is weaker with #21-ranked Hikari Onishi (Japan Post) and #23-ranked Mirai Waku (Universal Entertainment) set to run, but the men's team of #6-ranked Yohei Ikeda (Kao) and #9-ranked Toshiki Sadakata (Mitsubishi Juko) is solid. In that sense the MGC process might not produce something close to the best teams Japan could be sending to Paris, but we'll see.

In terms of team representation, as with last time Tenmaya dominates the women's entry list with five entrants. Daihatsu follows with four and Japan Post with three. A total of 16 teams are represented, and one independent athlete, club runner Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita), also made the field. 30 men's teams and two independents are represented, with Toyota having seven men on the list even without last time's MGC runner-up Yuma Hattori. Neither JR Higashi Nihon nor Asahi Kasei qualified a single athlete last time, but both have four in the race this time, in Asahi Kasei's case that at least partially due to poaching 2:06 runner Hidekazu Hijikata from Honda. Honda and six other teams all head to the trials with three men each on the list.

The MGC Race happens just 2-3 weeks before the regional qualifying ekidens for the National Corporate Women's Ekiden and New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships, potentially burning any team with someone qualified. To mitigate that, the Corporate Federation put in place a special rule this year saying that any team that has an athlete in the MGC Race and finishes its regional ekiden will qualify for Nationals without having to make the usual qualifying bracket. That's a saving grace for some of the weaker teams, but in at least one case someone is still getting burned.

Running for the Komori Corporation team, Tsubasa Ichiyama qualified for the MGC Race when he ran 2:07:44 for 3rd and top Japanese at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. He then left Komori at the end of the fiscal year in March to join Sunbelx. Without him, Komori has no qualifiers and will have to make the qualifying bracket at the East Japan corporate ekiden. Sunbelx doesn't have anyone else qualified, and because Ichiyama ran his time before qualifying he won't count in exempting Sunbelx from making the qualifying bracket. This means Sunbelx is the only team that will have to place at its regional qualifier with someone who ran the MGC, putting it at a serious disadvantage in the highly competitive East Japan region. Intricate systems are great, but the more intricate they get the higher the chance is that someone is going to get locked into unintended consequences.

© 2023 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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