translated by Brett Larner
A major shock hit the Japanese running world on Aug. 12 when Beijing Olympics women`s marathon gold medal favorite Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) unexpectedly withdrew from the competition after suffering an injury to her left thigh, ending the Athens Olympics gold medalist's quest to become the first woman to defend her title in the marathon.
Today, the JOC received Noguchi's official withdrawal from Rikuren official Tadasu Kono. JOC athlete director Tomiaki Fukuda commented, "She was expected to win the gold medal, so it is very disappointing." It is now up to the remaining two athletes to extend Japan's run of women's marathon gold medals to three.
The other two Japanese runners on the women's marathon team are Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) who is appearing in her second straight Olympics, and first-time Olympian Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya). Marathoning is an individual event, but with the level of Japanese women's marathoning being among the highest in the world, the synergetic effect of a strong core runner cannot be ignored. Japanese women have won medals in every Olympic marathon since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. At the 2004 Athens Olympics all three Japanese runners finished in the top seven.
With Noguchi's withdrawal, it is up to the courage of Athens 5th place finisher Tosa. The women's marathon begins at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 17. With such a profound change of circumstances only five days before the main event, Tosa and Nakamura must now deal with a whole new level of pressure.