KOBE – Mizuki Noguchi, the winner of the women’s marathon gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, announced her retirement on Friday.
Noguchi’s announcement comes after she finished 23rd at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon last month and failed to qualify for this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“I have had a happy athletics career,” Noguchi, 37, told a news conference in Kobe. “I feel refreshed and I am happy that I had so many people supporting me.”
In 1999, Noguchi placed second in the women’s world half-marathon in Palermo, Italy. Then, after a string of victories, she became known as the “Queen of the Half Marathon.”
Noguchi was chosen to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she pulled out just days before the race because of injuries to her groin and left hamstring. A series of further fitness setbacks meant she was never able to recapture her old form.
“I put together a training program to try and run the way I did in Athens or Berlin but the injuries I suffered in Beijing dragged on and my balance worsened,” said Noguchi, adding that focusing too much on winning back-to-back Olympic titles had come at a cost.
“The year before (Beijing) I won the Tokyo Marathon with a good time (2 hours, 21 minutes, 37 seconds) and so I was determined to win the gold medal again and create a legend. (But) I thought about that too much and that proved to be my undoing.”
“I never gave up after that and grew. I think the long-term injuries were something that was necessary for me.”
Noguchi paid tribute to Naoko Takahashi, who captured the women’s marathon gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and described her as “a sister.”
“Takahashi-san won the gold medal being roared on to victory (in Sydney) and I practiced with the image of me being in that position and winning the gold medal, too,” said Noguchi. “(Takahashi) showed concern for me when I was injured, and is like an older sister.”
Asked about her future plans, Noguchi said, “I don’t know in what shape or form yet but I want to give something back to athletics.”
“When I joined (my corporate team) I said that my aim was to run until my legs broke down and I have kept to my word and run as much as I wished to.”
Noguchi set the Japanese women’s record of 2:19.12 at the 2005 Berlin Marathon.