|HOME | SPORTS | OLYMPICS | NEWS|
September 24, 2000
Japan takes women's marathon goldThe Rediff Team
Two hours, 21 minutes and one second after she began, Japan's Naoko Takahashi raced into Stade Australia for the final formalities of the women's marathon.
For the best part of 43 km, she had done it all on her own, leading from the halfway stage and beating back all competition. For the last 200m, the crowd did it for her as they came together in one huge roar to power the petite, smiling Japanese down the home stretch and to the gold.
Naoko obliged with a time of 2:23.14 to take the gold, erasing the existing Olympic record of 2:24.52 (Joan Benoit) and coming marginally outside the world record of 2.20.43.
It marked a remarkable win for Asian champion Takahashi, who spent most of last year off the event with a succession of injuries, which caused her to miss the world championships. In 1998, she had first burst on the marathon scene with a brilliant run in the Asiad, taking it in 2:21.47 in conditions of blistering heat and humidity.
Then came the layoff, which was hardly the right preparation to take on perhaps the strongest women's marathon field assembled in a long time. 11 of the top 14 performers of the last two years were present in this field (two others, both Japanese, didn't make it to the final team, Germany's Katrin Dorre is injured, and world champion Jong Song-Ok has retired).
Takahashi stayed in the pack till the 19 kilometer mark, then surged into the lead alongside compatriot Ari Ichihashi and Lidia Simon. Ichihashi however couldn't cope with the pace as the runners began the climb up Anzac Bridge, and as the field hit the hill leading up to the 35-km mark, Simon too dropped back.
Lidia Simon, who spent most of the last 10 kilometers trying to, but failing, to get close to Takahashi, took the silver, while Joyce Chepchumba of Kenya took the bronze.
Tegla Loroupe, the pre-event favourite who clocked 2:32.04 in Rome and 2:24.33 in London this year, came in 13th in 2:29:45, behind the other strong contender, Fatuma Robe, who came 9th in a time of 2:27:38.
Lidia Simon, the second placed finisher, said she had a personal problem which hampered her performance. She didn't, however, specify what the problem was.
Odds-on favourite Loroupe, however, did. Specify what her problem was, that is. "I felt sick and was throwing up this morning. I must have eaten something, but I don't know what it was".
Asked why she didn't quit if she was feeling unwell, the Kenyan runner said, "I don't like to stop during the race, I like to finish what I start and I am happy I managed to finish".
Patrick Vignal of Reuters reported on the prospects before the race:
Kenya's Tegla Loroupe will be the one to beat in the highlight of Sunday's athletics programme at the Sydney Olympics -- the woman's marathon.
She has the best record of any athlete in the field with wins in New York and Rotterdam and two world records. She has more basic speed than any of her opponents and plans to run the 10,000 in Sydney as well.
Also in contention is Ethiopia's Fatuma Robe, hoping to emulate compatriot Abebe Bikila by successfully defending the Olympic title.
She has won the demanding Boston marathon three times since her victory at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Another one to watch is Naoko Takahashi, the Asian champion and Japanese national record holder who clocked the fastest time this year in two hours 22 minutes 19 seconds.
The good news for competitors is the weather which will be much kinder to distance runners than the fierce heat at last year's world championships in Seville or the humidity in Atlanta.
The bad news is the hilly course which will make special demands on the runners.
TRAVEL | NEWSLINKS
ROMANCE | WEDDING | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | FREE MESSENGER | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK