MUNAKATA, Fukuoka Pref. (Kyodo) Athens Olympic women’s marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi returned from a long injury layoff on Sunday, running in the western Japan women’s corporate ekiden road relay meet.

The 32-year-old Noguchi ran the 10.5-km third leg in strong winds and rain in 34 minutes, 15 seconds, the fifth-fastest time out of 16 runners, in the 42.195-km race.

“I felt pressure, but I managed to do my part because I was with my teammates,” Noguchi said. “What’s positive is the fact that I’m back in competition.”

Noguchi was forced to withdraw from the 2008 Beijing Olympics because of a left leg injury that kept her out of competition for about two years and five months.

“I haven’t decided when to run next. I still can run. I haven’t given up on running again in an Olympics,” the diminutive runner said.

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