• Kyodo

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Elena Prokopcuka of Latvia outpaced Japan’s Mari Ozaki in a heated battle to win her first Osaka International Women’s Marathon on Sunday.

Prokopcuka hit the tape at Nagai Stadium in Osaka in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 56 seconds while Ozaki clocked a time of 2:23:59 to place second. Japan’s Harumi Hiroyama took third in 2:25:56.

“I feel great and extremely happy,” Prokopcuka said. “I knew that (Hiromi) Ominami took the lead too early and decided to quicken my pace after the halfway point. I’ve made a special accomplishment in my life today.”

Second place automatically guaranteed Ozaki a place at the world championships this August in Helsinki after she went under the standard time of 2:26 needed to qualify.

“My pace was slower than in my first marathon, so it was a bit easier,” said Ozaki.

Prokopcuka locked in on Ominami after the Japanese runner dropped her pace from the 25-km point and stole the lead after 32 km en route to victory.

Ozaki, who was in a group vying for third, sprang to life before the 36-km mark to close in on second.

Ominami made a move to the front around the 11-km point and led the chasing pack by more than a minute at the 20-km mark before Prokopcuka surged ahead after the halfway point.

Romania’s Lidia Simon, the Sydney Olympic silver medalist and three-time winner at the Osaka meet, came fifth and failed to win the race for the first time in five years.

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