NaganoJapan Kenya’s Eric Wainaina, the 2000 Sydney silver and 1996 Atlanta Olympic bronze medallist took victory in today's men’s race at the Nagano Olympic Memorial Marathon from Josiah Thugwane of South Africa, the Atlanta Olympic champion.
The 29-year-old Wainaina, clocked a winning time of 2:12.00.
Defending champion Thugwane was second in 2:14:18, followed by Noriyuki Mizuguchi of Japan in 2:14:26.
Wainaina was part of a four man leading group which broke away shortly after the start, the others being Thugwane, Benedict Kimondiu of Kenya and Tadesse Gebre of Ethiopia.
Gebre, 12th here last year, slowed down after the 11km mark, and Kimondiu disappeared after the 17km mark, leaving Wainaina and his Atlanta Olympic nemesis battling in the following 20 kilometres until the Japanese based Kenyan made the decisive break at 37.6km.
“We will have many races before the Athens Olympics next year. I really want to go there. I'm going to prepare for that and do my best," said Wainaina.
In the women’s race, 38-year-old Madina Biktagirova of Russia staged a strong come-from-behind victory, by overtaking fellow Russian Alevtina Ivanova less than two kilometres from the finish to defend her title in 2:28:24.
Ivanova took the lead at the 27.16km point after going past Japan's Hisae Yoshimatsu, and from then made a long solo run ahead of Biktagirova, and 1996 Olympic women’s champion Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia.
However, Biktagirova caught up and passed a tired Ivanova at 40.38km and the defending champion was never seriously challenged after that point. Ivanova came in second in 2:29:06 and Roba third in 2:31:06, followed by Yoshimatsu in 2:32:18.
“I'm very happy, because it was the first time in my career that I won the same marathon twice in a row. I think I was a bit lucky,” said the veteran Biktagirova.
“It was a tough race. At the 39km, my coach and husband told me 'give your best'. I felt I still had strength, so I moved up to top gear.”
“There are many young up-and-coming runners and it's getting tougher and tougher for me, but everybody has a chance. I'm going to concentrate on next year's selection races for the Olympics,” added Biktagirova.
1. Eric Wainaina (KEN) 2:12:00
2. Josiah Thugwane (RSA) 2:14:18
3. Noriyuki Mizuguchi (JPN) 2:14:26
4. Kikuo Ozawa (JPN) 2:14:48
5. Shinichi Watanabe (JPN) 2:16:13
1. Madina Biktagirova (RUS) 2:28:24
2. Alevtina Ivanova (RUS) 2:29:06
3. Futuma Roba (ETH) 2:31:06
4. Hisae Yoshimatsu (JPN) 2:32:18
5. Akie Yokoyama (JPN) 2:36:29
6. Elizbieta Jarosz (Pol) 2:38:11