Saturday, February 26, 2011

Withdrawals leave Fujiwara as Japan's hope in Tokyo

Ken Marantz / Daily Yomiuri Sportswriter

As if losing Haile Gebrselassie wasn't bad enough, the Tokyo Marathon now has to deal with the breakup of the Fujiwara act.

Defending champion Masakazu Fujiwara withdrew Friday from Sunday's race, leaving unrelated two-time runnerup Arata Fujiwara to lead Japan's hopes in the men's race.

An organizing committee official said Masakazu Fujiwara was suffering from a fever, quoting his coach as saying, "He wasn't able to achieve what he wanted to in his final preparations and decided to withdraw."

The announcement came a day after the shocking news that world record-holder Gebrselassie had pulled out due to a knee injury suffered in training.

For Arata Fujiwara, second to Masakazu last year, the loss of his namesake means a change in how he has imagined the race, that is also a domestic qualifier for this summer's world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

"In my image training, I pictured running next to Masakazu," Fujiwara said at a prerace press conference Friday. "I really wanted to battle it out with him. It's disappointing, but it doesn't lessen my desire [to win]."