Takahashi, Radcliffe Look To Athens

TOKYO, Nov 17 (AFP) - Sydney Olympic marathon championNaoko Takahashi expressed on Monday her hope ofrepresenting Japan for the Athens Olympic Games nextyear after her poor performance in the Tokyo marathon aday before.
The one-time world fastest record holder led the fieldfrom the 22-kilometre mark before slowing down at around the 35kmpoint to lose to eventual winner Elfenesh Alemu ofEthiopia in Sunday’s Olympic qualifying race.
Takahashi, who was overtaken by Alemu at the 39kmmark, clocked two hours 27 minutes 21 seconds, far slower than her best time of2:19:46.
I'm 100 percent sure that I want to go to Athens,but at this moment, I can not think about what I'm goingto do next,'' said Takahashi Monday morning. Japan has already selected Mizuki Noguchi after shetimed 2:24:14 to win the silver medal at the Paris worldchampionships in August. Masako Chiba also won thebronze medal in 2:25.09 in Paris. The remaining two runners for the Athens Olympics wereto be chosen after the Tokyo marathon, Osaka marathon inJanuary and Nagoya marathon in March. Takahashi's low-key performance Sunday made theJapanese athletics association's squad selection processdifficult. The course in Athens is the one Takahashi likes. Ireally want to send her to Athens. She likes to keeprunning. I can not imagine she will retire. I’m going totalk with her after she takes a rest,’’ said her coachYoshio Koide.
Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, who marked the fastest timein the world with 2:15:25 at London in April, watched Takahashi’s raceSunday.
I think it was very difficult. The conditions werevery warm and the first half was very fast, so maybe thewarm conditions affected her,'' Radcliffe said. She looked very strong and very fluent in the firsthalf of the race and even upon the last five kilometresstill looked very strong. And then on the hill … Idon’t know … maybe it is too warm.’’
Radcliffe told Takahashi: ``I still hope that it’spossible. It would be special to have the defendingchampion from Sydney also in Athens.’’
The Tokyo race was Takahashi’s first full distancemarathon since September last year at the Berlinmarathon, where she enjoyed her sixth straight victory,and the first on her home ground since March 2000.
The 31-year-old Takahashi, the 1998 Asian Games goldmedallist, once held the world fastest time of 2:19:46set at Berlin in October 2001, only to see CatherineNdereba of Kenya break it several days later at Chikago.
Takahashi’s Asian record was also broken by China’sSun Yingjie, who marked 2:19:39 to win the Beijing marathon last month.