Athens Olympics women’s marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi will likely be named to carry next year’s Tokyo Olympic flame in March as it begins its journey in Greece, sources close to the matter said Thursday.
The flame is scheduled to be lit in Greece on March 12, and the idea now is for the 41-year-old 2004 Olympic champion to accept it from a Greek runner, making her the first Japanese to carry the torch.
In addition to her Olympic triumph, Noguchi holds Japan’s national record for a women’s marathon of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 12 seconds set at the 2005 Berlin Marathon. She retired from competition in 2016 after failing to qualify for Japan’s team to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The Japan segment of the torch relay will begin on March 26 at J-Village in Fukushima Prefecture.
The national soccer training center was used as an operational base for emergency workers dealing with the core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011. It has become a symbol of reconstruction since fully reopening last April.