Up-and-coming Yoshimi Ozaki made a tenacious late run to win the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon on Sunday, claiming her first full-marathon crown in only her second race appearance.
Ozaki came from behind to overtake the tiring front-runners and ran alone unchallenged in the final 3.8 km before crossing the line at National Stadium with a time of 2 hours, 23 minutes, 30 seconds.
Fellow Japanese Yuri Kano finished runnerup in 2:24:27 and Britain’s Mara Yamauchi, sixth at the Beijing Olympics, came third in 2:25:03. Former national record holder Yoko Shibui led for much of the race but slowed down to settle for fourth in 2:25:51.
Ozaki reached the 30-km mark in fourth place, 92 seconds adrift of leader Shibui, but mustered her energy in a grueling uphill section of the course to hit the front and went on for victory.
“I’m surprised and feel honored to win in the final year of the Tokyo marathon, which has a long history,” Ozaki said, referring to the race that began in 1979 as the first women’s marathon sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
“I didn’t think I would wind up as the winner today, but I’m confident about my tenacity and never gave up until the end. I guess the time has come for me to think about running a race along with the world’s top runners.”
Ozaki marked her marathon debut with a second-place finish in the Nagoya race in March this year.
Sunday’s victory booked the 27-year-old a place in next year’s world championships in Berlin.
The Tokyo International Women’s Marathon will be replaced by a race in Yokohama beginning next year. The 30-year history of the event produced high-profile winners such as Joyce Smith, Katrin Dorre, Rosa Mota, Valentina Egorova, Derartu Tulu, Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchi.
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