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Former gold medalist all smiles despite 23rd place finish in Nagoya Women's Marathon

Mizuki Noguchi, left, smiles at her coach Hisakazu Hirose after finishing 23rd at the Nagoya Women's Marathon at Nagoya Dome, on March 13, 2016. (Mainichi)

NAGOYA -- 2004 Athens Olympics gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi, 37, shed tears but was all smiles as she finished in 23rd place at the Nagoya Women's Marathon here on March 13.

    Noguchi had said herself the marathon, which also served as a final qualifier for the women's national Olympic team, was her "last attempt at the Olympics," and a 23rd place finish leaves her no chance to compete in the Rio de Janeiro games. She had already fallen behind the frontrunners at around the 6-kilometer mark, but the cheering from the sidelines for her never ended.

    "It was somehow like I was in the spotlight. It was a great 42.195 kilometers," Noguchi said.

    Previously, with her long stride Noguchi had successfully competed internationally, but these past few years she has struggled. Her coach of many years, Hisakazu Hirose, had lamented the deterioration of her running form. Still, her desire to run remained.

    Noguchi regretted that at a world championship event in Moscow in August 2013 she had to quit partway because of heatstroke. On March 13 she completed her first marathon in about two and a half years.

    "I may not be able to go to the Rio Olympics, but I was able to run with pride," she says. Nagoya was also the site of her first marathon in 2002, and after finishing her career as a top athlete here, her face showed her sense of accomplishment.

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