Japan may have come away without a medal as it hosted the latest Olympic marathons but can take heart in the high finishes of its top runners in hot and humid conditions that forced many of the world’s top competitors to drop out.
Suguru Osako finished sixth in the men’s marathon on a humid and windy Sunday in Sapporo when 29 runners exited the race early including world champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda.
In the women’s race on Saturday, 15 women did not finish as Mao Ichiyama battled to eighth place. Osako, who has said he would retire after these Olympics, voiced hope for Team Japan’s future.
“I gave it 100 percent today,” Osako said. “I think the next generation will be in the medal battle if they do their best. Now it’s the younger group’s turn.”
Japanese women have not won a medal since they won back-to-back golds in 2000 and 2004, while the men have not won a medal since taking silver in 1992.
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats with his second straight gold on Sunday, said the key was preparation and enjoyment.
“Running very fast is not rocket science. All of us, we aim to be successful, it’s in the mind of everybody,” he said, when asked by a reporter for advice on how Japan’s runners could improve.
“But we have the systems to be successful. One of them is good preparation and planning. So, giving advice to Japanese athletes, is to just put more effort on preparation and planning,” Kipchoge said. “Respect the sport, enjoy the sport. They say enjoyment of sport is next to perfection. That’s my only advice.”