• Kyodo

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Sydney Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi, who is set to mark her comeback at the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon in November, will run at the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon in the United States next month, race organizers said Tuesday.

With the exception of guest appearances, the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon will be Takahashi’s first official race since she suffered a shock defeat at the 2003 Tokyo marathon two years ago, a result that cost her a place at the Athens Olympics.

“I’ve only just started training for marathons but decided to compete in the half marathon as it will be a good tuneup two months ahead of the Tokyo marathon,” said Takahashi.

“I want to try really hard in the race that will be my first half marathon in five years,” added Takahashi, referring to the 2000 Sapporo Half Marathon held ahead of the Sydney Olympics.

On Monday, Takahashi’s management announced she would return to a competitive marathon race at the Tokyo run after an injury-caused two-year absence.

Takahashi became the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic marathon gold medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney but failed in her bid to defend her title in Athens last year after being dropped in the selection process.

The setback resulted from her loss to Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia in the 2003 Tokyo marathon, which served as one of the qualifying races for Japanese runners for the race in Athens.

Her time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, 21 seconds failed to convince Japanese athletics officials, and Japanese compatriot Mizuki Noguchi won the gold at the Athens Olympics in her absence.

Takahashi has since been plagued with a series of injuries, including a broken ankle she sustained during training in September last year, which forced her to delay her comeback.

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