OSAKA — Collectively, Japanese people will repeatedly utter “good luck” over and over again on Saturday morning for five women: Reiko Tosa, Yumiko Hara, Mari Ozaki, Yasuko Hashimoto and Kiyoko Shimahara.
They are Team Japan’s representatives in Sunday’s women’s marathon.
The race begins at 7 a.m. on Sunday, the ninth and final day of the 2007 IAAF World Athletics Championships.
“The men’s marathon was in very tough conditions,” Ozaki said at a news conference Friday afternoon before a crowd of more than 100 media members. “It seemed like one out of every three marathoners was retiring. That really symbolizes the marathon: don’t give up in the end. That’s what I would like to do. The medal is not my main goal. It’s about trying my best, just like the team.
“Sometimes I feel like being a marathon runner is a lot of pressure because there are no heats or quarterfinals and semifinals like other events.”
In January, Hara earned the winner’s trophy in the Osaka International Ladies Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 23 minutes 48 seconds.
Since then, she’s kept a busy schedule, participating in several training camps.
“It’s important for me to run well to make the people smile,” Hara said. “I hope all the spectators can go home happy.”
As a reminder to herself and her teammates, Hara told reporters that it’s important to remember to drink water during the 42.195-km race.
“Small things like that really help the way that I run,” Hara said.
Tosa is no stranger to success at big meets, having a silver medal from the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, on her resume.
During a training camp last month in China, Tosa tripped while running and hurt her knee cap. She missed 10 days of training while recovering from the injury.
“I feel good even though I have an injury,” Tosa said, but revealed she’s unsure of how to gauge her conditioning level entering the marathon.
Nevertheless, Tosa described her feelings about the upcoming race as “quite confident.”
“I want to do my best,” she added.
Hashimoto was victorious on March 11 at the Nagoya International Women’s Marathon. She took first with a time of 2:28.49
“A lot of people supported me and I’m very grateful,” Hashimoto said, reflecting on the past few months’ work.
“I’ve done all I can (and) I think my condition’s very good.”
Shimahara, who spent time training in Albuquerque, N.M., earlier this year, said she’s happy it wasn’t as hot on Friday as it was last Saturday when the men ran their marathon.
“Osaka feels very humid,” Shimahara said. “But all I have to do is run my best and run my style.”
Said Ozaki: “I think I have a good chance of getting a good time. I’ll just run fast.” Ozaki said she considered the men’s marathon an inspiration to her because “all the good athletes never gave up (until) the very end.”
Japan’s Marathon World Cup win last Saturday provided joy among the teammates and pride for people across Japan, but the IAAF does not award medals for the team winner of the marathons.
Asked if they felt there was pressure to win a medal because Japan had yet to win one in the championships, Shimahara and Hashimoto both said that was not the case.
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