Shogo Nakamura and Honami Maeda claimed spots for the men’s and women’s marathons at the Tokyo Olympics on Sept. 15 after winning the Marathon Grand Championship, a trial race held in the Japanese capital for next summer’s competition.
Nakamura completed the men’s event first, crossing the finishing line with a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes, 28 seconds to qualify for the Summer Games, along with runner-up Yuma Hattori.
The course was almost identical to next year’s Olympic marathon. It started and finished at Meiji Jingu Gaien in busy Shinjuku Ward and took runners past several Tokyo landmarks, including the new National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Games.
Nakamura broke away from the leading pack with less than 4 kilometers remaining. He managed to hold onto the lead despite being followed closely by Hattori and national record holder Suguru Osako.
In the women’s event, contested among 10 runners, Maeda finished the race in 2:25:15 and qualified for the Olympics along with Ayuko Suzuki, who finished in 2:29:02.
Japan has three berths each in the men’s and women’s competitions for the 2020 Games.
The final qualifying event is the MGC Final Challenge, which gives runners a chance to claim the last spot on the Olympic marathon squad if they can post a time within 2:05:49 for men, and within 2:22:22 for women. If the spots are unfilled after the Final Challenge, they will go to the third-place getters in the Sept. 15 race.
The MGC was organized by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations in a bid to simplify the qualification process for the Olympics. (Kyodo)