Ethiopia's Workenesh Edesa won the Osaka Women's Marathon and second-place finisher Honami Maeda took a giant step toward earning an Olympic spot by breaking Japan's 19-year-old national record Sunday.
Maeda clocked 2 hours, 18 minutes, 59 seconds, eight seconds behind Edesa, in the first of the two "Final Challenge" races for Japan's third and last spot in the women's marathon at this summer's Paris Olympics.
The 27-year-old from Hyogo Prefecture will qualify for her second consecutive Olympics unless someone beats her time at the Nagoya Women's Marathon on March 10.
Maeda's time eclipsed the previous national record set by Olympic gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi in 2005 in Berlin.
"I wanted to break this national record, so I'm so happy," Maeda said. "I wasn't sure if I could get it done when conditions got worse late in the race with the wind and the rain, but cheers from the roadside kept me going."
Last October at the Marathon Grand Championship in Tokyo, Yuka Suzuki and Mao Ichiyama finished first and second, respectively, to clinch automatic Olympic berths. Maeda was seventh in the race.
"I felt disappointed with my performance at the MGC last year," Maeda said. "I continued to work hard for this Osaka race."
Maeda made a move at the halfway point and stayed in front until Edesa overtook her with 10 kilometers to go. The Ethiopian crossed the finish line at Yanmar Stadium Nagai in a meet record.
"I knew I could break this meet record," said Edesa, ranked 20th in women's marathon by World Athletics. "I'll run the Boston Marathon next and try to win."
Three-time Osaka Women's Marathon winner Mizuki Matsuda finished third in 2:23:07, and Uganda's Stella Chesang was fourth an additional 29 seconds back.