More than 5,800 miles separate Paralympic medallist Misato Michishita’s home town in Japan from the city of London, but the streets of the UK capital have been a regular home-from-home for the 42-year-old vision impaired athlete in recent years.
Wins in 2017 and 2018 have marked her down as one of the favourites for gold at this month’s World Para Athletics Marathon Championships, taking place in conjunction with the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 28 April.
Her time of 3:04:00 last year was more than six minutes clear of the rest of the women’s T11/12 field; the year before that, nearly 10 minutes separated first and second place.
“While the course in London is very tough for vision impaired athletes, I can feel the passion and warmth of the spectators that is different from Japan.”
“Although the London Marathon is a stepping stone to Tokyo 2020 (Paralympics), I would like to aim for a gold medal by demonstrating the results of my practice, because I have never won a gold medal in a Paralympic Games or even in a World Championships.” said Michishita, who set the world record for her class when she clocked 2:56:14 in Hofu City, Japan, 16 months ago.
“When it came to my final push to the finish line in 2018, I believed that I could win. In my case, I have just a few experiences competing very closely against other athletes during the race, and to win by such a distance gave me great confidence.
“I have been able to train consistently for the last two years. I’m ready!”
Still, Michishita admits that the tight corners around the London streets do provide an additional challenge.
“While the course in London is very tough for vision impaired athletes, I can feel the passion and warmth of the spectators that is different from Japan,” she said.
“Major events like the World Championships attract new levels of attention, and depending on my performance, I hope many more people will become aware of blind and vision impaired marathon runners. I will do my best to obtain a great result to help achieve that.”
Ten other Para athletes will be hoping to upset Michishita’s plans for a first major title, including Brazilian Edneusa Dorta and Maria Paredes Rodrigues, who finished second and third respectively in London last year. Dorta also claimed Paralympic bronze behind Michishita in Brazil.
South Africa’s T11 distance runner Louzanne Coetzee makes her debut over the London course with her guides Godfrey Ramokone and Claus Kempen.
The 25-year-old clocked 3:13:41 in Berlin, Germany, last year, less than 30 seconds outside the T11 world record held by China’s Jin Zheng. It was Coetzee’s second ever race 26.2 miles – she made her debut over the distance in Soweto, South Africa in 2017 – and can be expected to lower her personal best again.