ATHENS – While world record holder Paula Radcliffe is still picking up the pieces after burning out in the women’s marathon at the Athens Olympics, gold medal winner Mizuki Noguchi is simply basking in the glory and pondering her next move.
“I was so overjoyed I didn’t know quite what to do. I’d trained so hard and just thank God that I won,” said Noguchi, who sizzled in the searing heat on Sunday to hold off world champion Catherine Ndereba and keep the Olympic marathon title in Japan.
“I was well prepared for the race in Athens. I knew that there would be difficult conditions, like the heat, the sun and a great deal of fatigue. I’m so glad to win the gold medal.
“Now I just want to take my running up to another level,” added the 26-year-old silver medalist at the 2003 World Championships.
While Noguchi has no concrete plans for the immediate future, her next target will likely be going for the gold medal at next year’s World Championships in Helsinki.
“If she tells me she wants to compete then that’s something we will consider,” Noguchi’s coach Nobuyuki Fujita said, adding that going for a record in an overseas marathon is also another option.
“To aim for a record time, probably the Berlin Marathon or another race with favorable conditions (is one option),” he said.
In Sunday’s race, Radcliffe ran out of steam at the 37-km mark and broke down sobbing at the side of the road.
Olympic marathon races normally start in the early morning and there have been accusations that the race’s schedule was designed to fit in with broadcasters in the United States.
Radcliffe was reportedly among a group of athletes who had campaigned for the race to begin at 6 a.m. local time.
But the diminutive Noguchi, who measures just 150 cm and weighs 40 kg, stood tall to power over the line before collapsing in a heap on the ground.
“I went back to the Olympic village but having been exhausted from the heat, I was dehydrated and they had to give me saline solution intravenously,” said Noguchi.