Kokugakuin University's Kiyoto Hirabayashi won the Osaka Marathon in his marathon debut Sunday with the seventh-fastest time ever for a Japanese runner.

Hirabayashi crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 18 seconds at Osaka Castle Park, four seconds ahead of Ugandan runner-up Stephen Kissa, in the penultimate race to select the third and last Japanese marathoner for the Paris Olympics.

"I'm just happy," said the 21-year-old, who is known as a collegiate ekiden road relay star. "I thought things were going better than I expected. My focus was to win, and I'm glad about the time, too."

Hirabayashi bided his time before hitting the front with around 10 kilometers to go.

Kissa stayed close to the university runner, but Hirabayashi pulled away in the final 800 meters.

"I don't think this is my highest point. I want to train more and improve," Hirabayashi said.

Two runners, Naoki Koyama and Akira Akasaki, have already earned their Paris Olympic berths by finishing first and second, respectively, in last October's Marathon Grand Championship in Tokyo.

Koyama finished Sunday's race in third place in 2:06:33 as part of his Olympic preparations.

Suguru Osako, who was third in the MGC, will take the third and final spot for the Olympics if no runner clocks under 2:05:50, the time set by Japan's athletics governing body, in the Tokyo Marathon on March 3.

"Koyama ran as part of his tune-up, and he broke 2:07 as he aimed to," said Toshihiko Seko, who is in charge of athlete development at the Japan Association of Athletics Federations.

"Hirabayashi had an amazing run," the former Olympic marathoner said. "The way he ran has made me think he'll be our marathon superstar at the Los Angeles Olympics (in 2028)."