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Osaka International Women's Marathon and Osaka Half Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

The race to make the Japanese team for August's London World Championships continues Sunday at the Osaka International Women's Marathon.  Snakebitten in recent years by the presence of Eastern European women associated with disgraced Russian agent Andrey Baranov, Osaka has noticeably toned down its international component this year.  Rio Olympian Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) leads the field, her 2:24:42 best the fastest time of any woman in the race over the last three years and nearly a minute ahead of Ethiopian-born Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain).  2012 Osaka winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) and last year's Gold Coast Airport Marathon course record-breaker Misato Horie (Team Noritz) make up Ito's main front end competition, where they will have to break 2:22:30 and be the top Japanese woman to be guaranteed a spot on the London team.

That's not an impossible task.  Last year Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) did it, winning outright in 2:22:17, but Ito, Shigetomo, Horie and others are not exactly up to the same level of ability as half marathon national record holder Fukushi.  More likely they will be chasing the JAAF's B-criteria for making London, finishing within the first three Japanese women with an aggressive race to stay in range of the overall winner.  Young talents Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido), Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko) and Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) are pretty good bets to factor into that sort of race, Takenaka and Kato poised for breakthroughs after ambitious running in Osaka last year and Tanaka, a training partner of Rio Olympian Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), making her serious marathon debut after an easy 2:42:23 tuneup win at December's Kakogawa Marathon.  Already in the ring for possible London selection after winning August's Hokkaido Marathon, Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) will be looking to erase the black mark next to her name from a bad run at November's Saitama International Marathon selection race.

Habtegebrel is the only international to have broken 2:27 in the last three years, meaning the front Japanese women are not likely to have much company once the pacers bow out.  Other overseas runners include Iwona Lewandowska (Poland), Muluhabt Tsega (Ethiopia), Serena Burla (U.S.A.), Cassie Fien (Australia), Ling-Ling Jin (China) and Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia).

Run simultaneously with the marathon in the opposite direction, the Osaka Half Marathon has gradually grown into a top-level early-season half.  The men's race is led by Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei), arguably the favorite for top Japanese man at next month's Tokyo Marathon, with 2:23 marathoner Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) leading the women's race in what is bound to be a tuneup for March's Nagoya Women's Marathon.

The Osaka International Women's Marathon will be broadcast live on Fuji TV starting at 12:00 noon Japan time.  International viewers may be able to watch live streaming via mov3.co.

36th Osaka International Women's Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Osaka, 1/29/17
all times are best within last three years except where noted

Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:24:42 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:25:36 (Dubai 2016)
Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya) - 2:26:39 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Misato Horie (Noritz) - 2:26:40 (Gold Coast 2016)
Iwona Lewandowska (Poland) - 2:27:47 (London 2015)
Risa Takenaka (Shiseido) - 2:28:09 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Yuko Watanabe (Edion) - 2:28:36 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama Int'l 2015)
Muluhabt Tsega (Ethiopia) - 2:29:17 (Beirut 2014)
Mari Ozaki (Noritz) - 2:29:56 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Serena Burla (U.S.A.) - 2:30:40 (Chicago 2016)
Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 2:31:04 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Haruna Takada (Yamada Denki) - 2:31:17 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Aya Higashimoto (Juhachi Ginko) - 2:31:28 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:25 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) - 2:32:38 (Tokyo 2014)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Hokuren) - 2:32:40 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:17 (Saitama Int'l 2016)
Ling-Ling Jin (China) - 2:33:22 (Hengshui 2015)
Nanami Matsuura (Tenmaya) - 2:33:24 (Osaka Women's 2014)
Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia) - 2:33:36 (Chongqing 2015)
Asami Furuse (Kyocera) - 2:34:12 (Hokkaido 2015)
Kanae Shimoyama (Noritz) - 2:35:07 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:35:46 (Hofu 2015)
Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (YWC) - 2:36:02 (Osaka 2016)
Saki Tokoro (Kansai Gaikokugo Univ.) - 2:37:08 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 2:42:23 (Kakogawa 2016)

Debut
Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:12:45 (Matsue Ladies Half 2016)
Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) - 1:12:50 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Anna Hasuike (Higo Ginko) - 1:13:19 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Wakana Hayashi (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:14:39 (Osaka Half 2015)
Haruna Maekawa (Juhachi Ginko) - 1:16:00 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Asumi Kato (Keio Univ.) - 1:16:55 (Ageo Half 2016)
Kimiko Sato (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 34:02 (West Japan Univ. Champs 10 km 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
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