NAGOYA – Albina Mayorova of Russia pulled away from Yoshimi Ozaki with 5 km left to beat a glamorous Japanese field, winning the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in 2 hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds on Sunday.
Ozaki came in second with the fastest Japanese time of 2:24:14, while Remi Nakazato was third at 2:24:28 in the last domestic qualifier for the London Olympics.
Athens gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi showed flashes of her old form to take sixth with 2:25:33, completing her first marathon in four years and four months.
Mayorova was a minute and a half off the pace at the halfway point, but turned it up ahead of the 35-km mark, catching up to the leading pack that included Ozaki, Nakazato, Noguchi as well as former national record holder Yoko Shibui (fourth, 2:25:02) and Yukiko Akaba (eighth, 2:26:08), who was fifth at last summer’s world athletics championships.
Mayorova wasted little time brushing off Ozaki, taking the tape with a comfortable lead at Nagoya Dome — a victory she was not expecting.
The 34-year-old Russian took 1 minute and 43 seconds off her personal best.
“I didn’t think I had any chance today,” she said. “I’m really pleased with my time. It makes me the second fastest in Russia now, and I think I’ve moved a lot closer to the Olympics.
“My plan was to be at around 1:13 at the halfway point so I could finish at 2:26. When I was 100, 200 meters behind the Japanese runners, I thought I had plenty left to make a run for it.
“I want to thank the seven or eight Japanese runners because they made a good target for me.”
Like Mayorova, Ozaki also boosted her chances of making the Olympic team, which will be announced Monday by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations for both men and women.
Ozaki had run in another Olympic qualifier, the Yokohama International Women’s Marathon in November, but lost out to Ryoko Kizaki.
Finishing first among the Japanese in Nagoya was an absolute must to win a trip to London this summer.
“I felt comfortable all the way to the end,” the 30-year-old Ozaki said. “There were a lot of big names in the field, but I wanted to show I wouldn’t be intimidated. I think it’s the most I’ve ever been relaxed in a race.
“It would have been nice to win it, but I was first among all the Japanese runners. I like to think the Olympics are within reach for me now.”
Noguchi was in tears as she crossed the line.
“My mind went blank at the start,” said the 33-year-old. “My whole life has been like a marathon.
“You can fall down or be in pain, but you have time to make up for it as long as you fight for it. And I hate to lose, which is another thing that’s driven me all this time.
“It was so nice to be back on this stage.”
Noguchi, who had run just two marathons since capturing the 2004 Olympic gold, raced out in front past the 4-km mark so she wouldn’t miss her water at the fueling spots.
But at the 17-km point, Noguchi fell behind the leading pack and at 25 km, she was 24 seconds off the pace.
“I felt my left knee weaken at 17 km. I couldn’t put any weight on it,” said Noguchi, who had to pass on the Osaka Women’s Marathon in January due to inflammation in her left hamstring. “But I didn’t want to give up, and I wanted to run the style I always have.”