Tokyo previews – Women’s Marathon

The subsequent banning of Jemima Sumgong will mean Tokyo crowns a new women’s marathon champion. World record holder Brigid Kosgei heads a Kenyan team featuring three of the five fastest women of all time. Israel will hope to have their first Olympic medallist in athletics and an Ethiopian trio will ensure the Tokyo field rivals any major marathon. Here’s our women’s marathon preview for Tokyo.


Friday 6 August 23:00 UK Time (Final)

Fastest times since 2019

Ranking since 2019Time AthleteCountry
102:14:04Brigid KosgeiKenya
202:17:08Ruth ChepngetichKenya
302:17:16Peres JepchirchirKenya
402:17:41Worknesh DegefaEthiopia
502:17:45Lonah Chemtai SalpeterIsrael
602:18:30Roza DerejeEthiopia
702:18:33Azmera AbrehaEthiopia
802:18:35Birhane DibabaEthiopia
902:18:40Joyciline JepkosgeiKenya
1002:18:52Vivian Jepkemoi CheruiyotKenya

British interest

Britain send a full contingent to Tokyo through Steph Davis, Jess Piasecki and Steph Twell. All three rank highly on the British all time list at ninth, third and sixth respectively. Davis won impressively at the British trials in 2.27.16 and showed potential to improve. Jess Piasecki ran 2.25.38 back in 2019 to win in Florence and Steph Twell has run 2.26.40. They will need more to challenge for the medals but are one of the most competitive trios Britain has sent in years.

The favourites

Brigid Kosgei should start favourite for the Olympic gold. She ran 2.14.04 to win in Chicago in 2019 and beat Paula Radcliffe’s world record. That said her year so far has not been quite as emphatic, coming sixth in the Kenyan trials over 10,000m (32.18.90) and fifth in the Istanbul half marathon (1.06.01).

The winner in Istanbul? Her own teammate, Ruth Chepngetich whose 2.17.08 best over the marathon came in winning the Dubai Marathon in 2019. Her 1.04.02 run in Istanbul was good enough to break the world record and shows some impressive form.

It is ludicrous to think that the third member of the Kenyan team is the fifth best of all time and the reigning two-time world half-marathon champion. Peres Jepchirchir, the former world record holder in that event last raced in Valencia in December 2020 where she won the race in 2.17.16. A strong case can be made that she heads to Tokyo as favourite.

Lornah Chematai Salpeter has a chance to claim Israel’s first athletics medal at an Olympic games. She won in Tokyo in March 2020. Such an experience stands her in good stead and much will be made of how she adapts to the conditions. In Doha, in hot conditions she had to pull out, coming into that race as one of the favourites.

The Ethiopian team is Roza Dereje, Birhane Dibaba and Tigist Girma and all have chance of competing at the front end of the field.

Tigist Girma won the Ethiopian trials (over 35k) but was only sixth in Valencia in 2020 albeit in an impressive 2.19.56. Whilst she could compete there are other athletes with perhaps greater credentials. One of those may be her teammate Birhane Dibaba who finished second in Tokyo last year but has won twice there in 2015 and 2018. The humidity of Sapporo in August may be a different proposition but her 2.18.35 best puts her in elite company. She was second in the Ethiopian trials.

The final Ethiopian is Roza Dereje. Her latest race outside third in the Ethiopian trials was finishing eighth in Barcelona over the half. She won Valencia in 2.18.30 in 2019 and in Dubai in 2018. She has also won in Shanghai twice.

Others worthy of mention include Helalia Johanes of Namibia who was third in Valencia in 2.19.52 and home favourite Mao Ichiyama. Ichiyama won in Osaka in January in 2.21.11 and also in Nagoya (2.20.29) last year. If others struggle with the humidity, the Japanese record holder could well be there to pick up the scraps.

Our medal prediction

  1. Peres Jepchirchir
  2. Ruth Chepngetich
  3. Mao Ichiyama


WR: 2.14.04 Brigid Kosgei (2019)

OR: 2.23.07 Tiki Gelana (2012 London)

Featured image “Start of the Women’s Marathon in London 2017” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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