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So far, it appears that the organizers of the Osaka Women’s Marathon have not invited Kenyan athletes to the 2024 edition.
The seeded athletes, who are listed on a page titled, “Invited athletes,” include several Japanese athletes, as expected, as well as Ethiopians Worknesh Edesa and Sisay Meseret Gola as well as Ugandan Stella Chesang, and the domestic entrants are led by Mizuki Masada.
It remains to be seen as to why there are no Kenyans on the list. Perhaps several were invited and none are available? Or perhaps do not qualify. Kenyan athletes are known to reside in Japan and compete locally. Perhaps it has to do with the level of doping.
Kenya is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s watch list as a Category A nation. Over the past few years, more Kenyans have been suspended due to doping-related charges than any other nation.
The 31-year-old owns a personal best marathon performance of 2:18:51. She ran the time during the 2022 Berlin Marathon, where she finished fourth. The 2022 edition saw Kenyan Assefa Tigist smash the course record with her 2:15:37 performance. In the 2023 edition, three months ago, Edesa again ran Berlin clocking a 2:19:40 finish time. Edesa ran the Tokyo Marathon in March finishing in the time of 2:20:13.
Little else is known about her running career. Her half-marathon personal bests are nowhere near the level of her marathon performances. Perhaps she is a marathon specialist.
Stella Chesang set the national marathon record for Uganda clocking a 2:20:23 performance during the 2023 Hamburg Marathon in April. The 27-year-old also holds the national 10,000m record at 31:01.04, which she set in July 2022. The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion finished 10th in the Bathurst World Cross Country Championships in February this year — in oppressive heat.
After a strong career in track and while racing shorter road distances, Chesang appears ready to join the ranks of the sub-2:20 as Hamburg is her only performance to date.
Sisay Meseret Gola
In February 2022, Sisay Meseret Gola set her personal best in the marathon clocking a 2:20:50 at the Seville Marathon. The now 25-year-old followed up that run with a win in Osaka going 2:22:12. She is the defending champion and while she will have her hands full with a few other runners, she has as much chance of winning as the others. Despite her age, she is also more experienced than Chesang and Edesa.
She ran only eight seconds slower than her best going 2:20:58 during the Berlin Marathon to finish in fifth place in 2022.
Mizuki Matsuda won the 2022 edition of the Osaka Marathon and in so doing set the current course record of 2:20:52. The 28-year-old has run 2:20 or 2:21 four of the six times that she has raced the distance. She has been consistent over a range of distances during her career and owns a 10,000m best of 31:39.41. She is a two-time national champion and owns a bronze from the 2017 Asian Championships.
Expect Matasuda, an Osaka native, to challenge for the win. Home course advantage, a competitive personal best time and a past winner will give her a leg up over her competition.
As for Kenya, historically speaking, only one runner from the African country broke the tape over the past 41 years. Catherine Ndereba won in 2006 clocking a 2:25:05 finish time.
Weather aside, the possibility for the first sub-2:20 in Osaka, is very likely with the advent of super shoes and a crop of capable athletes.
Full slate of seeded athletes available here>>