• Kyodo

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Yukiko Akaba pulled away from Mai Ito near the 39-km mark and held on for her first career marathon victory at the Osaka Women’s Marathon on Sunday.

Akaba crossed the finish line at Nagai Stadium in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 29 seconds in the race which doubled as a selection event for this summer’s world athletics championships in Daegu, South Korea.

The 31-year-old, who finished second behind Yoko Shibui in the 2009 Osaka Women’s Marathon, needed to clock below 2 hours, 26 minutes to automatically qualify for the world championships for the second time in a row but became a strong candidate.

Ito was a distant second, 26 seconds back. Chika Horie came in third in 2:27:26, followed by Anna Incerti of Italy in 2:27:33.

“I feel great,” Akaba said. “I was planning to make a last spurt at the 30-km or 35-km point, but I just couldn’t do that against the wind.

“I believe I was able to show (officials of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations) my ability to perform in a big race, so what’s left is to increase speed, I guess.”

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