Japan's Mizuki Noguchi, the Athens Olympic women's marathon champion, will likely be named to carry next year's Tokyo Olympic flame in March as it begins its journey in Greece, sources close to the matter said Thursday.
The flame is scheduled to be lit in Greece on March 12, and the idea now is for the 41-year-old 2004 Olympic champion to accept it from a Greek runner, making her the first Japanese to carry the torch.
In addition to her Olympic triumph, Noguchi holds Japan's national record for a women's marathon of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 12 seconds set at the 2005 Berlin Marathon. She retired from competition in 2016 after failing to qualify for Japan's team to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The Japan segment of the torch relay will begin on March 26 at J-Village in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
The national team soccer training center has become a symbol of reconstruction as it fully reopened in April. From 2011, the training center had been used as an operational base for dealing with the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11 of that year.