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【Tokyo Marathon 2016】Tsuchida Claims Ninth Consecutive Title and Qualifies for Women’s Slot in Rio

Tsuchida Defeats a Tough Opponent to Open the Door to Rio

“This time around, I want to make it a satisfying Games in which I do a race exactly as envisioned.”

These were the words of Wakako Tsuchida regarding her goal for the Rio Paralympics.
The Paralympian has already participated in two winter Games and four summer Games, aiming each time to become the top athlete in the world. However, she has not been able to carry out the races as envisioned due to accidents, such as falls and crashes.

She is promising to give more than 100 percent in her at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, her seventh Paralympics.

An important race for getting a hold of the ticket to participate in the Games was Tokyo Marathon 2016 (celebrating its 10th anniversary). She was unable to finish in the first qualifying race held last November—the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon—due to heatstroke. At the press conference held three days prior to the Tokyo Marathon, she said with some reserve, “I’ve been experiencing a streak of bad luck recently, getting heatstroke, a flat tire, and so on. I want to make Sunday’s race an uneventful race in that sense.”

Wheelchair marathoners leave the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office ahead of other racers

The Tokyo Marathon wheelchair event was off to a start at 9:05 a.m. on February 28, under clear blue skies. The women’s conditions for qualifying for Rio were to be within the top three, and the top Japanese finisher, in the race, and a finishing time of within 1:46:00. From this year, the Tokyo Marathon was officially recognized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), and included, for the first time, wheelchair marathoners from overseas. The women’s race became a head-to-head battle between Wakako Tsuchida, who has won eight consecutive titles at this marathon, and the invincible queen, Tatyana McFadden (U.S.), who has been continuing to claim major titles, such as the Boston and London marathons.

The two raced while trading top places during the marathon. It was with only 1 km left to the race that Tsuchida made a move at the final hill to break free. She finished the marathon at 1:41:04. Raising her arms contently in victory, Tsuchida not only clinched her ninth consecutive win of the Tokyo Marathon but also opened the door to the Rio Paralympics.

After the race she said, “I have yet to bring out my best. I would like to spend the remaining time getting myself ready.” Her real contest is now just starting. We hope that she will be able to show us a smashing smile in Rio as she did in Tokyo.

Hokinoue Gets a Hold of the Men’s Ticket to Rio

Meanwhile, the men’s conditions for qualifying for Rio were to be the fastest Japanese wheelchair marathoner at the race and among the top three, with a finishing time of within 1:28:30.

Hiroyuki Yamamoto, who finished second at the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon (first among Japanese marathoners) with a time of 1:25:02, had already secured a tentative spot. Wheelchair marathoners were to compete at the Tokyo Marathon and the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup (London) in April for the remaining two slots (one qualification at each of the qualifying races).

Hokinoue (on the right), who sprinted at a high pace with the overseas marathoners

Eyes were focused at the Tokyo Marathon on whether Masazumi Soejima or Kota Hokinoue would qualify for Rio. The pair, together with Yamamoto, are considered the top three wheelchair marathoners in Japan.

The men’s wheelchair marathon was a high-paced race from start to finish, driven by Soejima, who was also the race director for Tokyo, and Japanese record holder Hokinoue.
There were moments when Hiroki Nishida, who placed fourth at the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon, led the pack aggressively. However, the leading pack ultimately consisted of Hokinoue, Soejima, Kurt Fearnley (Australia) and Ernst van Dyk (South Africa). The battle for top place unfolded at a sprint with the finish line in sight. Fearnley and van Dyk overtook Hokinoue, who had been running at the head of the pack. Fearnley clinched the title with a finishing time of 1:26:00.

Hokinoue, who came in third with a time of 1:26:01, became the top Japanese wheelchair marathoner in Tokyo, qualifying for Rio.
He looked back at the race with a relieved look on his face and said, “It was a good race, and I’m satisfied with how I did.”

Twenty-one-year-old Tomoki Suzuki also made a good showing, finishing in fifth place with a time of 1:26:11.

The next qualifying race is in London in April. No one can take their eyes off this fierce competition to represent Japan in Rio.

text by Asuka Senaga
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