Olympic silver medalist Lidia Simon will make her ninth appearance at the Osaka Internaional Ladies Marathon tomorrow in Japan. The 35 year-old Romanian has won the Osaka contest three times and held the course record for three years after winning for the third time in 2000 in 2:22:54, still her personal best.
"She is the most popular foreign athlete in the event's history, and one of the most well-known foreign athletes in Japan," said her manager Brendan Reilly in a prepared statement yesterday. "Her fame stems not only from her three consecutive wins at Osaka, but from her duels with two prominent Japanese athletes at the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2001 IAAF World Championships."
Indeed. In Sydney in 2000, Simon (who's name is pronounced "see-MOAN") battled Japan's Naoko Takahashi all the way to the stadium, losing by just 8 seconds in what is still the second-fastest time in Olympic Games history: 2:23:22. In Edmonton in 2001, Simon won a three-way battle with Japan's Reiko Tosa and Russia's Svetlana Zakharova to win by just five seconds over Tosa.
Simon, who is a long-time resident of Boulder, Colo., is one of the most decorated marathoners in history, in particular in World Championship events. In addition to her win in Edmonton, she has bronze medals from Sevilla in 1999 and Athens in 1997. At half the distance, she's won a silver and three bronze medals at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships.
Germany's Katrin Dörre is the only athlete to win Osaka four times. In order for Simon to tie Dörre's mark, she'll have to beat Ethiopia's Worknesh Tola (2:25:37 PB), and Japanese Yoko Shibui (2:19:41), Hiromi Omnami (2:23:26), Mari Ozaki (2:23:30), Yumiko Hara (2:23:48), and debutante Yukiko Akaba (1:08:11 half-marathon). That's a tall order.
Sunday's Osaka International Ladies Marathon will be the 28th edition of the race, and will use the same course as the 2007 IAAF World Championships. The race will be broadcast in its entirety nationally in Japan by Fuji TV.