Naoki Koyama, Yuka Suzuki Win Japanese Olympic Marathon Trials

By Chris Chavez

October 16, 2023

Naoki Koyama, Akira Akasaki, Yuka Suzuki and Mao Ichiyama secured their spots on the Japanese Olympic team for the marathon at the Summer Games in Paris.

Here’s what you need to know:

– The Marathon Grand Championships in Tokyo on Sunday served as Japan’s selection race for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The automatic qualifying times for the race are 2:08 for the men and 2:24 for the women. Athletes could also qualify if the average of their two best marathon times is 2:10 and 2:28. Only the top two finishers at the trials are guaranteed an Olympic team berth. The third place finisher is granted a provisional spot but if anyone runs faster than 2:05:50 or 2:21:41 at another race, they can be selected over the third place finisher.

– Koyama, the 2023 Gold Coast Marathon champion, pulled away in the final 4K of the race to win in 2:08:57. Akasaki was in a pack of three that included 2020 Olympian Suguru Osako and 2018 Boston Marathon champion Yuki Kawauchi. Akasaki surged ahead in the final two kilometers and managed to hold off Osako for second place in 2:09:06. Osako finished third and missed the automatic berth by five seconds despite a late kick when he hit the track at the National Stadium for the final stretch of the race. Kawauchi, who attempted to run away from the leaders and held onto first place until 35K, faded to fourth in 2:09:18.

– Suzuki was a bit of a surprise winner since this was just her third career marathon. The 24-year-old notched a personal best of 2:24:09 to dominate the women’s race. Mao Ichiyama, who finished eighth at the Tokyo Olympics, will head to her second Olympics with a runner-up finish in 2:24:43.

Who gets the third spot?

Japanese running fans will be paying close attention to the Fukuoka Marathon, Osaka Marathon and Tokyo Marathon in the next five months. The fastest guy at those races who runs faster than 2:05:41 will get the third spot. If no one runs that, Osako will head to his second Olympics. He was sixth at the Tokyo Olympics. On the women’s side, Ai Hosoda was third in 2:24:50. She will be keeping tabs at the Osaka Marathon in January and the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in March to see if anyone runs 2:21:41 or faster.

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.