- March 17, 2004 at 1:31 am #1306
The runner expected to be among Paula Radcliffe’s biggest rivals for the
marathon gold medal at the Olympic Games has been left out of the
Japanese team for Athens.
In a decision which shocked even the country’s prime minister, the
selectors omitted Naoko Takahashi, who won the marathon at the last
Olympics in Sydney.
Takahashi, a national icon, was the first woman to run the marathon
inside 2hr 20min, when she won the Berlin race in 2hr 19min 46sec.
Despite her impressive record, she was passed over because she failed to
impress the selectors in November’s Tokyo Marathon, one of four races
designated as trials. Takahashi faded in the last four miles to finish
second behind Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia.
It was thought that she would be given the chance to defend her Olympic
title and Takahashi skipped Sunday’s Nagoya Marathon to concentrate on
training for Athens
After several hours of deliberation, however, the selectors came up with
a team of three and the damning verdict that Takahashi should have
wrapped up her Tokyo race “more skilfully”.
With Mizuki Noguchi already selected following her silver medal at last
summer’s World Championships, the federation picked Reiko Tosa, who won
in Nagoya, and Naoko Sakamoto, the champion in Osaka.
Takahashi said: “I had always wanted to go to Athens and even pictured
myself running there. I have regrets, but I wish all the best to the
people who have been selected.”
Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese prime minister, said: “I feel sad. Can
they add just another person by any means?”
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