Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko in action at the Osaka Marathon (© Takeo Yamaguchi/Agence SHOT)
Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko of Ukraine came from behind to win the 33rd Osaka Women’s Marathon in 2:24:37 on Sunday (26), defending the crown she won last year at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
The 30-year-old became only the sixth runner after Karin Dorre, Lidia Simon, Lorraine Moller, Carey May and Yoko Shibui to win the Osaka Women’s Marathon multiple times. Dorre won four Osaka titles, while Simon and Moller each won three times.
The race started slowly with the first kilometre covered in 3:43, but the pace picked up a bit with the second kilometre covered in 3:23. With no pace maker, Risa Shigetomo took over the lead and was followed closely by Poland’s Karolina Jarzynska and the pace became relatively fast.
After 4km, Yuko Watanabe, one of the great Japanese hopes, started to lose contact with the leaders. She would eventually finish 12th in 2:34:01.
The lead group of nine runners – Shigetomo, Yukiko Akaba, Mari Ozaki, debutante Sayo Nomura, Hiroko Miyauchi, Gamera-Shrmyrko, Jarzynska, Marta Lema and Hellen Mugo –passed 5km in 17:09. By 6km, however, three runners – Ozaki, Miyauchi and Mugo – started to fall behind.
Another kilometre later, Nomura, Gamera-Shmyrko and Lema also fell behind, leaving Shigetomo, Akaba and Jarzynska in the lead.
Soon after, a group of three runners passed 10km in 33:52. Akaba, the 2011 Osaka champion, fell behind for a while, but she worked her way back.
After 15km (50:42) Jarzynska pulled ahead and Akaba covered the move immediately, but Shigetomo fell behind. The duel between Jarzynska and Akaba continued through 20km (1:07:45) and half way (1:11:30).
Akaba and Jarzynska exchanged the lead until 25km (1:25:00) when Jarzynska pulled away. Meanwhile, Gamera-Shmyrko left the chase group behind and started to chase the leaders alone.
She was gaining on both with every step and caught Akaba at 31km. Together they started to chase Jarzynska and they caught her just after 32km to reform the three-women lead pack.
Jarzynska began to fall behind after 33.5km, leaving Gamera-Shmyrko and Akaba to fight it out. With 5km to go, however, Gamera-Shmyrko made a strong surge and immediately opened up a gap on Akaba. With each step, the gap kept on growing and soon Gamera-Shmyrko was completely alone in front.
Gamera-Shmyrko’s lead grew to 46 seconds by 40km and 83 seconds at the finish line as she won in 2:24:37. Akaba, who was contesting the final race of her career, finished second in 2:26:00.
Gamera-Shmyrko covered the final 2.195km in 7:27, not as fast as the past two years (7:14 in 2013 and 7:06 in 2012), but she did not need to go any quicker. Jarzynska held on for third and finished in 2:26:31, improving her personal best by 14 seconds.
The big surprise was Sairi Maeda of Buddhist University in fourth place. Like Gamera-Shmyrko, Maeda ran superb second half and covered the 5km segment between 30km and 35km in 16:59. The 22-year-old was making her marathon debut and finished in 2:26:46, breaking the Japanese collegiate record by five minutes.
After a graduation from Buddhist University this coming March, Maeda will join the Daihatsu track team where Ryoko Kizaki – another Buddhist University alumni and an Olympian and World Championships fourth-place finisher – is one of the key members.
Incidentally, Maeda’s performance in Osaka is faster than Kizaki’s marathon debut of 2:27:34.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (UKR) 2:24:37
2 Yukiko Akaba (JPN) 2:26:00
3 Karolina Jarzynska (POL) 2:26:31
4 Sairi Maeda (JPN) 2:26:46
5 Marta Lema (ETH) 2:28:06
6 Natalia Puchkova (RUS) 2:28:44
7 Mari Ozaki (JPN) 2:31:17
8 Deborah Toniolo (ITA) 2:31:42
9 Louise Damen (GBR) 2:32:21
10 Sayo Nomura (JPN) 2:32:29
Splits: 5km 17:09, 10km 33:52 (16:43), 15km 50:42 (16:50), 20km 1:07:45 (17:03), half 1:11:30, 25km 1:25:00 (17:15), 30km 1:42:22 (17:22), 35km 1:59:53 (17:31), 40km 2:17:10 (17:17), finish 2:24:37 (7:27).