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Prague Adds Two Men To List of Olympic Trials Qualifiers

Five Japanese men including the top two placers at the 2020 Olympic marathon trials ran Sunday's Prague Marathon in a last shot at qualifying for the 2024 trials to be held on Oct. 15. Takayuki Iida (Fujitsu), Yuichi Yasui (Toyota) and '20 trials runner-up Yuma Hattori (Toyota) ran most of the way together on mid-2:08 pace, while Kyoya Tsujino (NTN) and '20 trials winner Shogo Nakamura (Toyota) fell off early. Yasui and Hattori began to slow after 25 km, but Iida held on for 5th in a PB of 2:09:34, the first time a Japanese man has gone sub-2:10 in the Czech Republic, and under the 2:10:03 he need to run to become the 66th man to qualify for the trials.

After 25 km Yasui and Hattori's projected finish time slowed 30 seconds ever 5 km, meaning Yasui would stay under the 2:11:12 he needed for qualification but that Hattori was right on the edge of his 2:10:13 qualifying time. Both kicked in the home straight, Yasui taking 6th in 2:10:33 and Hattori a step behind in 8th in 2:10:34. For Yasui that meant his name being added to the list as the 67th qualifier, but for Hattori, an agonizing 21 seconds short of what he needed, it meant no return trip to the Olympic trials and a hard road ahead to steal the third spot on the Olympic team at one of the domestic marathons next winter. Tsujino was 12th in 2:17:17 and Nakamura 24th in 2:26:14, both far out of qualifying range.

With the deadline for qualifying coming up on May 31 only two races remain where Japanese men and women can qualify, the May 21 Taiyuan Marathon in China and the May 28 Ottawa Marathon in Canada. It's not likely there will be any Japanese athletes in Taiyuan, but as of right now eleven Japanese men are entered in Ottawa. Nine of them will be trying to hit a two-race sub-2:10 average like Iida, Yasui, Hattori and Tsujino, and two a single race at 2:08:00 or better like Nakamura.

Athletes in red on the list of non-qualifiers are people who ran in Rotterdam, Nagano or Prague in hopes of qualifying but missed their time standard. The recent announcement that teams with at least one athlete in the Olympic trials will auto-qualify for the New Year Ekiden and National Corporate Women's Ekiden as long as they finish the regional qualifying races will give the men running Ottawa some extra motivation, as four of them are from three teams that have yet to produce a qualifier.

© 2023 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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