30 October 2000TokyoOlympic women's marathon champion Naoko Takahashi was presented Monday with a prestigious award by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
Takahashi, 28, who won the first Olympic athletic gold medal for a Japanese woman, became the 15th person and the third woman to receive the People's Honour Award since it was inaugurated in 1977.
"You have given inspiration and encouragement to youngsters and others by crossing the finish line with a refreshing smile," the prime minister said in a ceremony at his official residence.
Takahashi, the first sportswoman to receive the award, said, "I will cherish this award and try to become an athlete who makes people enjoy athletics."
"I want to run my next marathon as soon as possible," said Takahashi, whose next goal is to set the world's best marathon time for women. "I will use this award as a springboard and aim for even higher goals."
The award has been won by five male sports celebrities, including baseball home run king Sadaharu Oh, legendary judo heavyweight Yasuhiro Yamashita and sumo grand champion Chiyonofuji.