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Japan's only hope: marathon runner Tosa

Japan's only hope: marathon runner Tosa

Reiko Tosa will know what heat is all about when she starts the women's marathon.
Japan's last serious hopes for a medal at the track and field world championships hang on Tosa in Sunday's marathon, which starts the last day of competition.
She'll likely have the streets of Osaka lined with supporters as she bids to end the medal drought for the host nation. She'll also have to handle the environment, where grueling heat and humidity have made conditions difficult all week for distance runners.
The last time a host nation failed to win a medal at the world championships was Canada in 2001, a feat Japan's track stars would rather not repeat with the Beijing Olympics less than a year away.
After hammer thrower Koji Murofushi and hurdler Dai Tamasue failed to deliver, Tosa now represents Japan's lingering chance of a medal.
Tosa, who won the silver medal at the 2001 worlds in Edmonton, is aware of the pressure but is just trying to stay focused on Sunday's race.
"If you just focus on goals for the race you don't feel pressure," said Tosa. "I've done everything I can do to prepare and am ready for the race."
Tosa fell and injured her left knee while training in China about a month ago and had to rest for 10 days. While she said she is physically fit for the race, Tosa did admit to having some mental concerns about her injury.
The good news for Tosa is that the world and Olympic champions are not running.
World record holder Paula Radcliffe, the defending champion, is sitting out the championships because of a back injury.
Japan's top marathon runner, Athens Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi, elected to sit out the world championships because she doesn't like running in the heat.
With temperature's soaring in Japan, Noguchi wouldn't have enjoyed Sunday's race.
Tosa's stock rose when she won the Nagoya and Tokyo marathons this season, making her the leading member of Japan's five-member team at the worlds.
Japan has a strong record in women's marathon over the past decade and has won medals in four straight Olympics.
But a failure to medal two years ago in Helsinki has left some wondering if Japan's streak of success in the event is coming to an end.
Tosa is known as an all-weather runner who can perform on any course. Her worst finish in nine career marathons was a fifth at the Athens Olympics.
In addition to Tosa, Japan will also be looking for strong performances from Yumiko Hara, Kiyoko Shimahara, Yasuko Hashimoto, and Mari Ozaki.


Updated : 2021-03-01 21:05 GMT+08:00