The Japan Association of Athletics Federations clarified the selection process for the men’s and women’s marathons for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Tokyo on Thursday.
The JAAF designated four events apiece for the men and women as trial races: next month’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, Fukuoka International Marathon, Tokyo Marathon and Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon for the men, and the World Championships, newly established Saitama International Marathon, Osaka International Women’s Marathon and Nagoya Women’s Marathon for the women.
The national team will send up to three members each to the Rio Games.
A top Japanese runner who earns a top-eight finish at worlds, both for the men and women, will secure a spot on the Japan national team right away.
Also, the three top Japanese finishers in the aforementioned domestic trial races will be included in the selection process. Furthermore, each runner who completes a marathon under the standard time the JAAF has set (2 hours, 6 minutes, 30 seconds for the men and 2:22:30 for the women) will preferentially be picked up for the national team.
For the rest of the spots, the JAAF will comprehensively consider times, results and how they performed in those races, time gaps, race climate, among other factors, and choose the Olympians after all the trial races are completed next spring.
If a runner who competes in IAAF-approved races overseas and meets the standard mark, he or she will be taken into consideration as well.
Meanwhile, athletes who are on the national marathon team, which was established last year, previously had an edge over others in the selections. But the JAAF eliminated that criteria.
In fact, popular marathoner Yuki Kawauchi, a public employee in Saitama Prefecture, refused to be on the national team, which was also revealed on Thursday.
National team members will receive training and medical support based on the federation’s scientific data, but Kawauchi chose to train on his own.
It was unprecedented that the JAAF would announce its marathon selection process, but because of past disputes over the selections for the world championships and Olympics, it tried to spell out the conditions and requirements in advance.
“Marathon is a national interest,” JAAF senior managing director Mitsugi Ogata said. “And we decided to explain (the qualifications), because we wanted the media and public to fully understand them, not just the athletes.”
Ogata hinted that the JAAF would place a higher value on speed for the marathoners while the rest of the world, especially Africa, has developed its records in recent years.
The national team consists of seven men and nine women. The nine female runners include Athens Olympics gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi and 2013 World Championship bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi.