Olympic politics

This story broke in March, but it’s news to me that Naoko Takahashi, the gold medal winner of the Sydney 2000 Olympics women’s marathon, and Japan’s first female to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field, was left off the marathon team for the Athens summer games.The Japan Times’ Jack Gallagher called this decision by the Japan Associaton of Athletics Federation “a joke.”

I guess if you live long enough, you will see everything.

That is about the only way I can describe my reaction to the events of Monday, when the JAAF failed to name Naoko Takahashi as one of the three female marathoners to represent Japan at the Olympics this summer in Athens.

Takahashi, who holds the Japan record in the women’s marathon with a time of 2:19:46, has a clearly superior personal best time compared to the three runners selected.

In addition to the raw data considered during the selection process, what about the intangibles Takahashi would bring to the squad?

Experience in the most glaring of spotlights, intelligence, dedication and, most importantly, guts. Somebody the other runners could look up to and learn from.

It seems clear to me that the JAAF should have selected Takahashi for the third spot and then taken the heat for it.

There would have been a lot less criticism, because she was clearly the most qualified of the remaining candidates, and it was the right decision.

Takahashi getting passed over is just another example of somebody getting railroaded. Trying to justify the decision is a joke.

I was truly looking forward to the women’s marathon in Athens this summer, with Takahashi likely going to the starting line for the first time ever against Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, the world record-holder (2:15:25 — 2003 London Marathon) in the event.

That is a race that would have brought both phenomenal interest and record ratings for the sport.

Radcliffe the machine vs. Takahashi the national hero.

We will never know how it might have turned out though, because a bunch of bureaucrats took the easy way out when the chips were down.

Read a January 2003 Japan Times interview with Naoko Takahashi: Part 1 and Part 2.

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