SYDNEY -- Tiny Naoko Takahashi blitzed a big marathon field Sunday to win Japan's first-ever Olympic gold medal in women's athletics in a new Olympic best time.

Her 2-hour, 23-minute and 14-second run also reaped the nation its first gold in athletics in 64 years -- the last coming in the 1936 Berlin Games when Korean Son Ki Tei was forced to run the marathon for Japan.

It was also Japan's first gold medal off the judo mat in the Summer Olympics since 14-year-old schoolgirl Kyoko Iwasaki won the women's 200-meter breaststroke in Barcelona, and the nation's third consecutive medal in Olympic women's marathons after Yuko Arimori's silver and bronze medal performances in Barcelona and Atlanta.