Late Surge Puts Kitajima On Path To Rio

Late surge puts Kitajima on path to RioHisanori Kitajima did not run his first marathon until he was 30. At 31, he will likely be going to his first Olympics.
Kitajima all but assured himself a place on Japan’s team to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics when he placed second in Sunday’s Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, the last of the three men’s domestic qualifiers.

Kitajima passed Suehiro Ishikawa with one kilometer to go to assure he would be the all-important top Japanese in the race, then went by Tanzania’s Alphonse Simbu in the final 100 meters to move into second place before finishing in 2 hours 9 minutes 16 seconds, which cut more than three minutes off his career best.

The Shiga Prefecture native finished five seconds behind race-winner Lucas Rotich of Kenya.

Kitajima made a late surge despite feeling pain in his side after 35 kilometers. “I still had energy to spare, so I put it out of my mind and pressed on,” he said.

Ishikawa finished fourth in 2:09:25, which makes him a candidate for selection to Rio. Kentaro Nakamoto, who finished sixth at the 2012 London Games, saw his dreams of another trip to the Olympics end when he placed eighth.

The 1.71-meter Kitajima had established himself at Toyo University by winning the eighth stage of the Tokyo-Hakone Ekiden. But since joining the Yaskawa Electric corporate team, he had been held back by injuries.

Kitajima, who became a father for the first time last month, made his marathon debut in February last year, winning the Nobeoka West Japan Marathon, then followed that with a victory in Sydney in September. In both races, he finished in the 2:12 range, but it was good sign his troubles were behind him.