Dibaba targets title defence at Tokyo Marathon as she bids for Rio 2016 spot

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Birhane Dibaba (second left) will aim to become the first woman to retain the Tokyo Marathon title ©Getty Images

Birhane Dibaba will aim to defend her women’s title at the Tokyo Marathon tomorrow, as she targets a place in the Ethiopian team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The event in the Japanese capital is the first of six races in the 2016 World Marathon Majors series.

Dibaba has impressed at her last two appearances in Tokyo, the 2020 Olympic Games host city, having won silver in 2014.

She was able to better that feat last year when she completed the course in 2 hours 23 min and 15 secs, with the result ensuring Ethiopian runners had won four of the nine editions of the race.

With the marathon being part of the qualifying races for the Ethiopian Olympic team, Dibaba knows another excellent performance could stand her in good stead for Rio 2016.

“In order to make the Ethiopian Olympic marathon team, I must win the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday,” said Dibaba who hopes to become the first woman to retain the title.

“Of course, the time is also important, but if I win on Sunday, I have a chance to make the team.

“All the runners are quite strong, but I want to make good effort to win.”

Dickson Chumba, winner in 2014, will hope to return to the top of the podium tomorrow
Dickson Chumba, winner in 2014, will hope to return to the top of the podium tomorrow ©Getty Images

Kenya’s Helah Kiprop will aim to improve on her second place finish last year, with her compatriot Edna Kiplagat and Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede also expected to feature at the front of the women’s field.

After finishing second in the men’s race last year, behind Ethiopia’s Endeshaw Negesse, Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich will aim to secure top spot at the event for the first time.

The reigning Olympic champion could face competition from Kenya’s Dickson Chumba, the winner of the 2014 edition of the race.

Chumba was forced to settle for third place last year.

Masato Imai will be leading the home challenge in Tokyo, where he will bid to improve on his seventh place finish last year.

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