Risa Shigetomo takes a surprise victory in Osaka (© Kazuo Tanaka/Agence SHOT)
With a 2:23:23 run, Risa Shigetomo of the Tenmaya track team won the 31st Osaka Women’s Marathon on Sunday (29) to take a step closer to her dream of making the Japanese Olympic Marathon team.
The Osaka Women’s Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
Since Eri Yamaguchi, Naoko Sakamoto, and Yurika Nakamura of Tenmaya made the Olympic Marathon teams in 2000, 2004 and 2008, respectively, Tenmaya as a team is likely to make it four in a row. The prohibitive favourite Kayako Fukushi lost contact with Shigetomo at 26.5Km and eventually finished a disappointing ninth.
Shigetomo's winning time is a new course record, however the event race remains 2:21:18, set by 2004 Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi, contested on the different course in 2003.
How the race unfolded
The pace makers, especially Yuko Shimizu, did an excellent job leading the pack slightly slower than the planned 3:20 per kilometre. Due to a somewhat aggressive pace for many of the contenders, the number of runners in the lead pack was reduced quickly. Before 5Km, only six runners (plus pace makers) were left in front.
Six runners (plus pace makers) passed 5Km in 16:55, close to the planned pace, while Fukushi was running at the rear of the lead pack. Romanian Constantina Dita, the 2008 Olympic champion, was running about 500 metres behind the leader at 10Km, where the leaders passed in 33:48. By then the lead pack lost Kenyan Irene Mogaka, thus leaving five – Fukushi, Azusa Nojiri, 2004 Olympian Naoko Sakamoto, Kumi Ogura, and Shigetomo – plus pace makers in front.
The pace continued to be reasonably fast. After passing 15Km in 50:35, Sakamoto lost contact. The lead pack also lost two more pacesetters at 15Km leaving Yuko Shimizu, a 31:43 10,000m runner, as the sole pace maker. Starting at 19Km, Nojiri, a former cross country skier, was barely hanging on to the leaders Shigetomo, Fukushi and pace maker Shimizu. After passing 20Km in 1:07:18 with Shimizu still in the lead, Nojiri seemed to have lost contact for good. Pace maker Shimizu, who has a 1:12:22 Half Marathon best, led the group at half way with 1:10:58. Presumably Shimizu was contracted to lead until 20Km, but she kept on going for a while until she final dropped out after 22Km, leaving Shigetomo in the lead closely followed by Fukushi.
The real racing started at 26.5Km, when Fukushi began to falter and Shigetomo broke away for good.
Shigetomo covered 27 to 28Km in 3:20 and was running alone, while Fukushi disappeared into the distance. Soon after 30Km (1:40:52 for Shigetomo) Nojiri caught and passed Fukushi (1:41:49 at 30K). Two and half kilometres later Fukushi was passed by Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko, who moved up to third behind Shigetomo and Nojiri. Shigetomo was slowing down and for the first time in the race, from 30K to 35Km, the 5Km split time (17:01) went over 17 minutes. However, she was still far ahead of second place Nojiri, and won convincingly.
“I wasn’t thinking much, but just followed the pace makers in the early going,” Shigetomo said. “Since I could not see behind me, I don’t know when I had broken away. I was running at a good rhythm, so I just kept on going. Compared to the London marathon (last April), I am much more satisfied with the race.”
When asked about the Tenmaya’s Olympic team streak, coach Yutaka Taketomi said, “I did not want the streak to end here, but I did not want my runners to feel the pressure either.”
Behind Shigetomo, fast closing Gamera-Shrymko passed Nojiri on the track of Nagai stadium to finish second in 2:24:46. Nojiri (2:24:57), by finishing third instead of second may have jeopardised her Olympic chance.
Dita finished a distant 11th in 2:40:08.
With only one Japanese Olympic qualifying race – Nagoya Women’s Marathon – left, Shigetomo is the strongest candidate for the Olympic team. She is followed by Yukiko Akaba who was fifth in Daegu and Ryoko Kizaki, who won the Yokohama Women’s Marathon. Mizuki Noguchi who pulled out of Osaka will run in Nagoya along with Yoshimi Ozaki, who finished second in Yokohama, but it is unlikely that Shigetomo will be left out of the team.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Weather: Partly Cloudy; temperature: 5.5C, humidity: 56%; wind: 1m/s North
1. Risa Shigetomo 2:23:23
2. Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (UKR) 2:24:46
3. Azusa Nojiri 2:24:57
4. Chika Horie 2:28:35
5. Kiyoko Shimahara 2:29:51
6. Yumi Sato 2:32:49
7. Irene Mogaka (KEN) 2:35:36
8. Lauren Shelley (AUS) 2:35:57
9. Kayoko Fukushi 2:37:35
10. Naoko Sakamoto 2:39:27
5Km - 16:55
10Km - 33:48 (16:53)
15Km - 50:35 (16:47)
20Km - 1:07:18 (16:43)
Half - 1:10:58
25Km - 1:24:03 (16:45) - Shigetomo
30Km - 1:40:52 (16:49) - Shigetomo
35Km - 1:57:53 (17:01) - Shigetomo
40Km - 2:15:34 (17:41) - Shigetomo
Finish - 2:23:23 (7:49) - Shigetomo