NAGOYA – Ryoko Kizaki stole Mizuki Noguchi’s thunder to win the Nagoya Women’s Marathon on Sunday, securing a spot on the Japan team for this summer’s world championships in Moscow in the process.
All eyes were on Athens Olympics gold medalist Noguchi, who was making her comeback from yet another fitness setback and was in contention for much of the race.
But Noguchi ran out of steam and Kizaki, Japan’s best performer in placing 16th at last year’s London Olympics, pulled away from Ethiopia’s Berhane Dibaba with 2 km left to cut the tape at Nagoya Dome in a personal-best time of 2 hours, 23 minutes, 34 seconds.
Dibaba was second in 2:23:51 and Noguchi, who dropped back at the 36-km point, was third in 2:24:05.
“Before the start of the race I felt really uneasy and yesterday I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep a wink,” said Kizaki. “But I found my rhythm in the middle of the race and the support from the home crowd pulled me through at the end.”
Kizaki automatically qualified for the worlds in August by fulfilling the required standard time of 2:23:59.
“It (the world championships) is the goal that I have been working towards but I can’t just be satisfied with this and I will try harder to move to a higher level.”
Noguchi has been plagued by a succession of injuries in recent years and her most recent setback came in January when she was forced to withdraw from the Osaka International Women’s Marathon due to fitness issues for the second year in a row.
But the petite 34-year-old put in a strong run in improving on last year’s run by placing third.
“I was able to run with same aggressiveness that I had in my prime,” said Noguchi. “This is a good step for me to be back at full force. It does not happen just like that. It is a gradual process.”
Noguchi finished sixth the 2012 Nagoya race, her first marathon since the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon in November 2007.