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Athletics: Noguchi strengthens London Marathon field

Japan's Olympic champion, Mizuki Noguchi, will make her debut in the London Marathon in April. Noguchi, winner in Athens two years ago, is yet another top talent who will compete in what is considered to be the strongest field to be brought together for a women's marathon.

"We are extremely pleased to have such a strong field in London, including the Olympic champion," said the race director, David Bedford. "I feel this is the most competitive women's field that has ever been assembled in London and we are looking forward to very exciting race. The women's race will be run under championship conditions with no male pacemakers." This has occurred in the past, notably when Paula Radcliffe posted her world record of 2hr 15min 25sec in the 2003 race.

Noguchi, the third fastest female marathon runner of all time, will be eager to return to action after injury prevented her defence of the real-Berlin Marathon at the end of September.

However, the tiny 28-year-old had the misfortune of slipping in her bathroom during high-altitude training in St Moritz, and an ankle injury developed as a result of that accident. It was mid-October when she returned to action, placing third over 10,000m at a track meeting on home soil in Kobe. Noguchi is under no illusions that even without the presence of Radcliffe, who is expecting her first child on 6 January, she will be tested to the limit.

"The London Marathon brings together the highest-level athletes," said Noguchi. "I have decided to test myself against the best athletes in the world."