Post-Race Coverage: MarathonGuide.com's Post-Race Writeup
What To Expect: MarathonGuide.com's Preview |
Race/Athlete Profiles: The Favorites
Facts/Figures/Lists: Past Athlete Performances | Starting Lists
Extras: Video Coverage
2008 Olympic Games - Beijing - Women's Marathon Preview
by Sharon Ekstrom
The Good Luck Beijing Test Competitions
If experience on a race course gives athletes an edge to mastering a marathon, we wonder if the athletes who flew to Beijing to test out the course of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Marathon course in a non-competitive race in April 2008 will have an advantage this August. While World Marathon Majors leaders returned to compete at the Boston and London Marathons, qualified Olympic athletes such as Mara Yamauchi (GBR), Lee Bong-Ju (KOR), Atsushi Sato (JPN), Tsuyoshi Ogata (JPN), Reiko Tosa (JPN), Ren Longyun (CHN), Han Gang (CHN), Zhou Chunxiu (CHN) and Zhu Xiaolin (CHN) had their test run in cool and rainy conditions and temperatures between 12-15 degrees Celsius. Athletes were able to enjoy the sights and take notes on where to employ race strategy along the course.
Amidst the excitement of the 2008 Beijing Games, on August 17, 2008 the world will witness the strongest field of women ever assembled compete in the Olympic marathon. Six of the top ten fastest female marathoners of all-time whose resumes boast world records and victories of high profile races will challenge a talented international roster in which is no clear favorite. While some athletes are happy to be participating, others will vie for the gold. Some favorites in the field are eight women with sub 2:21 personal best finishes - Paula Radcliffe (AUS), Catherine Ndereba (KEN), *Mizuki Noguchi (JPN), Deena Kastor (USA), Zhou Chunxiu (CHN), Berhane Adere (ETH) and Galina Bogomolova (RUS). Yet with the heat, humidity and pollution of Beijing being a major factor on race day, athletes cannot solely rely on speed, strength and strategy alone. While many spent months training in altitude and simulating warmer conditions, from what was seen in Athens the race will also be a mental one. Also, expect strong performances from Gete Wami (ETH), Dire Tune (ETH), Svetlana Zakharova (RUS), Irina Timofeyeva (RUS), Constantina Tomescu-Dita (ROM), Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT), Galina Bogomolova (RUS), Reiko Tosa (JPN) and Benita Johnson (AUS), any of which may very well steal the show.
Who's Who - Who's Back
Four years ago, the marathoners at the Olympic Games
faced temperatures of 86 degrees Fahrenheit and fifty percent humidity and fortunately not the predicted 100 degrees. For 2008, twenty-nine of those same women who battled the heat and humidity of Athens will be returning to the distance in similar hot conditions. Although Beijing's course will be flat and fast compared to Athens, the heat coupled with Beijing's well-documented pollution will bring the greatest challenge. Yet, the stage is set as four of the top five finishers from the Athens Games will headline the field - defending champion *Mizuki Noguchi (2:26:20), silver medalist Catherine Ndereba (2:26:32), bronze medalist Deena Kastor (2:27:20) and fifth place finisher Reiko Tosa (2:28:44).
Paula Radcliffe (GBR)
Catherine Ndereba (KEN)
Magdelena Lewy-Boulet (USA)
Gete Wami (ETH)
Constantina Dita (ROM)
Madai Perez (MEX)
Svetlana Zakharova (RUS)
Berhane Adere (ETH)
Selina Kosgei (KEN)
Pauline Curley (IRE)
Lidia Simon (ROM)
Athens provided many surprises. World Record Holder and
medal favorite Paula Radcliffe set the pace for most of the race; but ran out of steam and dropped from the race at 36K. A relatively unknown American marathoner, Deena Kastor, came from the chase pack moving from thirteenth to grab third place, proving that "slow-and-steady" may bring you that much closer to winning the race. And a petite, half-marathon specialist unknown outside of the Japanese racing circuit, *Mizuki Noguchi, whose focus and composure won the gold and shut out Kenyan distance running great Ndereba whose quest for a gold medal for Kenya continues in Beijing. A few thoughts remain, can Japan three-peat with another gold in the women's marathon or acquire their fourth consecutive medal in the event? Can Radcliffe overcome her disappointing experiences at Athens? Is Kastor who has continued to improve in the marathon distance each year able to repeat her incredible performance of Athens? Perhaps, Beijing will offer new surprises in what undoubtedly will be an incredible competition.
A number of Olympic Marathoners are "Masters" in the sport (over 35):
Note: Women in the USA are considered "Masters" at 40, whereas the age cutoff for women is 35 in most of the world.
Helena Javornik (42)
Pauline Curley (39)
Svetlana Zakharova (37)
Dulce María Rodríguez (36)
Patricia Rétiz (37)
Irina Timofeyeva (38)
Catherine Ndereba (37)
Constantina Dita (38)
Berhane Adere (35)
Mara Yamauchi (35)
Deena Kastor (35)
Magdelena Lewy-Boulet (35)
Lidia Simon (35)
Other Competitors of note: Some constants in the international marathon circuit will be in place for race day. Constantina Tomescu-Dita (ROM), Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT), Reiko Tosa (JPN), Benita Johnson (AUS) and Dire Tune (ETH). All are formidable competitors that have been waiting for their break thru race against the fastest women in the world and this could be the place for them to do it. Also, the Russians ever present in the lead pack have a
team of three veterans. At thirty-eight years of age Svetlana Zakharova (RUS) may be nearing the end of a career that includes a number of top three finishes at the Honolulu, London and Chicago Marathons. With a ninth place finish at the 2004 Athens Games, Zakharova made the Russian Olympic team with a 2:24:39 second place finish at the 2008 London Marathon and an improved time compared to her marathon finishes in the past five years. Fellow Russian Irina Timofeyeva (RUS) who is also thirty eight ran 2:24:14 to victory at the 2008 Hamburg Marathon. In her third Olympics and first marathon appearance, Galina Bogomolova (RUS) who holds the national record of 2:20:47 second place finish at the 2006 Chicago Marathon will round out the Russian team. And her 2:22:53 from the 2008 Rome Marathon makes her the fastest Russian in the field.
Olympic Marathoners whose husbands are their coaches:
There is an old adage that behind every great man is a woman. Turning that around, here we list a few great women whose husbands act as their coaches.
Gete Wami - Getaneh Tessema
Paula Radcliffe – Gary Lough (& Alex Stanton)
Liz Yelling – Alex Stanton
Constantina Tomescu-Dita - Valeriu Tomescu
Irina Timofeyeva - Vladimir Timofeyev
Jelena Prokopcuka - Alexsandr Prokopcuk
Lidia Simon - Liviu Simon
Deena Kastor –Andrew Kastor (not her coach, but her massage therapist)
Expect the unexpected from the Asians with a home turf advantage. Chinese Olympic team – Xiaolin Zhu who was fourth at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Bai Xue who was second at the 2008 Xiamen Marathon in a 2:23:37 and Japan's Yuriko Nakamuri who placed 1st Nagoya 2008 - 2:25:51.
2008 London Marathon winner Irina Mikitenko (GER) has withdrawn when complications of back and pelvis injury has extended to her feet. Yingying Zhang (CHN), a promising young Chinese athlete who won the 2008 Xiamen Marathon the day after her eighteenth birthday, set the world junior record in her second career marathon win in 2:22:38. Zhang cannot take part in that event because of her age, but will run a 5000/10,000 meter double in Beijing. Former Chinese top distance runner Sun Yingjie whose two-year suspension doping expired was unable to meet China's qualifying time standards. Former Japanese women's marathon national record holder Yoko Shibui whose personal best was a 2:19:41 at the 2004 Berlin Marathon fought many other top Japanese women for the third spot on the Japanese team, but lost out to Yurika Nakamura's 2:25:51 finish at the 2008 Nagoya Marathon. *Mizuki Noguchi has withdrawn from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games due to fatigue and a thigh injury. Japan will not be sending alternate Tomo Morimoto who is also injured.
Next: Some Detailed Athlete Profiles