Tuesday, August 23, 2016

JAAF Director of Men's Marathoning Takeshi Soh Devastated: "We Need Our Fastest Athletes to Come to the Marathon"

http://www.sanspo.com/rio2016/news/20160823/rio16082305020030-n1.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In the Aug. 21 men's marathon on the final day of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics the Japanese men suffered a crushing defeat.  Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) was the top Japanese man at 16th overall, while Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) was 94th, falling below even Kenjiro Jitsui's 93rd-place finish at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  JAAF director of men's marathoning Takeshi Soh, 63, held his head in his hands as he said, "I guess maybe all we can do is try to get our fastest runners to come to the marathon and then build up their stamina."  But with the heavy emphasis placed on running ekidens wearing sponsor company logos, training and development are left up to each individual team.  Lamenting the way they are mired in lasting, deep-rooted tradition, Soh said, "At the present time we just can't seem to do that. We need the JAAF, the corporate leagues and the university association to come together and talk heart to heart."

Coming from a sprint background, Strengthening Committee Director and coach Kazunori Asaba, 55, was also upset.  Results were poor across the athletics team, not just in the marathon.  Of the 30 Japanese athletes entered in individual events just three, Ryohei Arai (men's javelin throw), Daichi Sawano (men's pole vault) and Miyuki Uehara (women's 5000 m), made the final in their event, with an additional three, Asuka Cambridge (men's 100 m), Keisuke Nozawa (men's 400 m hurdles) and Ryota Yamagata (men's 100 m), making it only as far as the semifinals.  In the shadow of the brilliance radiating from the men's 4x100 m relay silver and men's 50 km race walk bronze medals, the problems faced in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stand out in stark relief.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rio Men's Marathon Tops Soccer With 23.7% Peak TV Viewership Rate

http://news.mynavi.jp/news/2016/08/22/138/

translated by Brett Larner

The Aug. 21 men's marathon on the final day of the Rio Olympics recorded peak viewership rates of 20.1% between 9:15 and 10:00 p.m., 23.7% from 10:05 to 11:00 p.m., and 18.4% between 11:05 p.m. and midnight.  Early in the morning the same day, the Brazil-Germany men's soccer final recorded rates of 11.8% between 6:24 and 7:00 a.m. and 16.8% between 7:45 and 8:55 a.m.  The evening's pre-marathon Rio Olympics Highlights program earned a 17.6% rate between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.

Additionally, NTV's Aug. 19 women's wrestling feature from 5:00 to 7:45 a.m. that included three-time gold medalist Saori Yoshida's tearful silver medal had an 11.4% viewership rate.  The evening men's wrestling and men's 50 km race walk segment from 10:00 to 11:50 p.m. scored a 10.7% rate, with the late night synchronized swimming segment from 11:55 pm. to 1:30 a.m. rate hitting 10.5%, both segments getting into double digits.

The Aug. 20 athletics segment from 8:15 to 11:11 a.m. that included Japan's men's 4x100 m relay silver medal recorded a viewership rate of 18.2%.  That day's highlight show had an 18.2% between 6:10 and 6:45 p.m. and a 16.3% rate between 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.  Rates were examined by Video Research Ltd. in the Kanto region for NHK's general Olympic broadcast except where noted.

Men's Marathon Rout - JAAF Executives Announce Resignation

http://www.nikkansports.com/olympic/rio2016/athletics/news/1698472.html

translated by Brett Larner

In the Rio de Janeiro Olympics men's marathon on Aug. 21, Satoru Sasaki (30) was the top Japanese man at 16th in 2:13:57.  Suehiro Ishikawa (36) was 36th, with Hisanori Kitajima (31) placing 94th.

At the end of athletics competition Japan's total was two medals and two top eight finishes, a total exceeding the JAAF's target one medal but falling short of its goal of five top eight finishes.  JAAF strengthening committee chairman Kazunori Asaba (55) announced that he intends to resign his position following the Rio Olympics.  Strengthening committee vice-chairman Katsumi Sakai (56) and director of men's marathoning Takeshi Soh (63) are also expected to join the exodus of resignations.  Japanese athletics will be forced to make a fresh start before the Tokyo Olympics.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics Athletics Day Ten Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

No real surprises in the men's marathon to wrap up the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.  Berlin and London Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) for gold, Tokyo Marathon winner Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) for silver, Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) stepping up for a medal in bronze, world champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) just missing the podium, DNFs for Kenyan and Ethiopian B-men Stanley Biwott and Tesfaye Abera, and irrelevant performances from the Japanese men.  The Japanese men finished in PB order, Satoru Sasaki and Suehiro Ishikawa hanging on to the pack for a while until fading to 16th and 36th, Hisanori Kitajima never in it and finishing 94th in 2:25:11.

Four men born outside Africa qualified for Rio with sub-2:10 times.  The Japanese men were three of them.  Sasaki was the only non-African-born athlete to have qualified sub-2:09.  This was a good team, one of the best in the field.  And yet, they were irrelevant, again.  Hats off to the less accomplished athletes like Alphonce Felix Simbu (Tanzania), Jared Ward (U.S.A.), Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) and Eric Gillis (Canada) who made the top ten.  Sasaki's 2:13:57 for 16th, the 9th-fastest ever by a Japanese man at the Olympics, was exactly in line with most of the rest of Japanese long distance in Rio, a mid-to-high-teens placing and a time just inside the ten fastest-ever Japanese times at the Olympics:

  • men's marathon: 16. Satoru Sasaki, 2:13:57 - JPN Olympic #9
  • women's marathon: 14. Kayoko Fukushi, 2:29:53 - JPN Olympic #8
  • women's 10000 m: 18. Yuka Takashima, 31:36.44 - JPN Olympic #8
  • women's 5000 m: 15. Miyuki Uehara, 15:23.41 (h) - JPN Olympic #8
  • men's 3000 mSC: 11(h). Kazuya Shiojiri, 8:40.98 - JPN Olympic #7

U.S.-based Suguru Osako, part of the Alberto Salazar-led Nike Oregon Project alongside Rupp and Rio gold medalists Matt Centrowitz (U.S.A.) and Mo Farah (Great Britain), deserves credit for beating that curve somewhat, his 13:31.45 the second-fastest 5000 m time ever by a Japanese athlete at the Olympics and his 27:51.94 the third-fastest 10000 m, but even those landed him only 16th in his 5000 m heat and 17th in the 10000 m.  Except for his 10000 m and Uehara's surprising 5000 m performance, none of them made the Japanese Olympic top ten for placing,

So pretty well across the board in Rio, the Japanese spectrum ranged from Sasaki and the other top Japanese athletes running OK times nowhere near what they needed to be competitive and downwards from there.  These are good athletes.  Especially given the strength of the men's marathon team, how could this be?  Brainstorming possible reasons of varying plausibility:

  • The JAAF and coaches are setting the wrong goals.
  • The JAAF and coaches are instilling the wrong mentality.
  • The JAAF and coaches are stuck in the past.
  • The JAAF and coaches don't know how to cultivate their best talent.
  • Their coaches don't know how to peak them for an international championships.
  • They are overtraining for the Olympics (subset of the above).
  • They don't know how to compete internationally.
  • They don't have competitive psychology or can't handle stress.
  • They don't care about medalling or running seriously.
  • They have other reasons for being at the Olympics.
  • Their PBs from domestic races are not what they seem.
  • There are problems with the selection system.
  • Add your theory here.

Exploring those would be another article or two, or three.  Maybe later this week.  But whatever the reasons, the consistent level of Japanese distance performances shows exactly where its bar is being set.  Overall Rio was Japan's best-ever Olympics, 6th overall in the medal count with 12 gold, 8 silver and 21 bronze, medals and podium near-misses coming in a range of sports and events including many outside Japan's traditional strengths. That's great news with the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, but the men's 4x100 m silver medal aside, the contrast between most of the rest of the Japanese Olympic team and its athletics squad couldn't have been starker.  It's clearly not the case that the Japanese athletes aren't good enough, but it's equally clear that they're not getting what they need to be their best when it counts most.  Other sports have cleaned house and represented Japan in a way that made the country proud.  It's time for athletics to do the same.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Aug. 21, 2016
click here for complete results

Men's Marathon
1. Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) - 2:08:44
2. Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 2:09:54
3. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 2:10:05
4. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) - 2:11:04
5. Alphonce Felix Simbu (Tanzania) - 2:11:15
6. Jared Ward (U.S.A.) - 2:11:30
7. Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) - 2:11:42
8. Munyo Solomon Mutai (Uganda) - 2:11:49
9. Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) - 2:11:52
10. Eric Gillis (Canada) - 2:12:29
-----
16. Satoru Sasaki (Japan) - 2:13:57
36. Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan) - 2:17:08
94. Hisanori Kitajima (Japan) - 2:25:11

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rio de Janeiro Olympics Athletics Day Nine Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Men's javelin throw national champion Ryohei Arai (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) was the lone Japanese athlete in action on the last evening of Olympic athletics action.  Despite a throw of 84.16 m in the qualification round that put him at 4th going into the final, Arai choked under the pressure.  Opening with a throw of only 77.98 m, he followed with two more throws under 80 m before being cut and ultimately finished 11th of 12.  In a TV interview afterward he could do little more than sob and apologize to everyone who supported him.  His underperformance means that two Japanese men must make the top eight in the marathon for the Japanese athletics squad to meet the JAAF's total targeted number of medal and top eight placings, a tall order.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Aug. 20, 2016
click here for complete results

Men's Javelin Throw Final
1. Thomas Rohler (Germany) - 90.30
2. Julius Yego (Kenya) - 88.24
3. Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago) - 85.38
-----
11. Ryohei Arai (Japan) - 79.47

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rio de Janeiro Olympics Athletics Day Eight Japanese Performances

by Brett Larner

Empty-handed so far despite strong showings by the rest of the Japanese Olympic team, the eighth day of athletics at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics finally brought Japan two medals, one controversial, one beautiful.

In the men's 50 km race walk, Koichiro Morioka was out of the front-end action early, while Takayuki Tanii and Hirooki Arai were part of a nine-man chase group behind breakaway leader Yohann Diniz of France.  Tanii fell off the pace, but Arai stayed up front as the pack dwindled, then overtook Diniz.  In 3rd behind Beijing World Championships gold medalist Matej Toth (Slovakia) and London Olympics gold medalist Jared Tallent (Australia) in the final stages of the race, Arai was caught by Canada's Evan Dunfee.  With 1 km to go, Arai made a move to retake Dunfee.  As he passed he bumped Dunfee hard; Dunfee seemed to lose his balance, then a few seconds later appeared to cramp up.  Arai pulled away for bronze by 14 seconds, Dunfree coming through in a national record 3:41:38 for 4th.  But it wasn't over yet.

Canada was quick to file a protest over Arai's contact.  Arai was disqualified and Dunfee elevated to bronze.   Japan appealed the decision, and it was duly overturned to put Arai back onto the podium.  Dunfee had the option to appeal to the CAS, but instead he issued a very respectable statement in which he said he felt that the decision was correct, that contact happens, and that he could never be proud of getting a medal that way.  "I will never allow myself to be defined by the accolades I receive, rather the integrity I carry through life," he wrote in a statement that is recommend reading for anyone who hasn't yet.  In an Olympics in which appeals and protests have played a major role in overturning the outcome of races it was refreshing to see someone put their personal honor and integrity before a medal-at-all-costs attitude.  And a Canadian to boot.  The JAAF has targeted one medal in Rio, but a bronze in what is probably athletics' most fringe event won under a small cloud wasn't really something that could have satisfied expectations.  A few hours later came redemption.

After a brilliant heat that saw then come to the final ranked 2nd just 0.03 behind the U.S.A., Japan's men's 4x100 m ran to almost near perfection in the final, leading at the final exchange and outrunning both the U.S.A. and Canada to take silver behind Jamaica in an Asian record 37.60.  Ryota Yamagata started them off strong, slightly sloppy on the exchange to Shota Iizuka but nothing fatal.  Iizuka and Yoshihide Kiryu doing their work, the team's well-practiced underhand exchanges a technical advantage that gave them the edge they needed.  Anchor Asuka Cambridge getting a glance from Jamaican great Usain Bolt as they ran side-by-side in Bolt's final Olympic race.  Cambridge holding off next-generation stars Andre de Grasse (Canada) and Trayvon Bromell (U.S.A.) to cross the line 2nd, straight up legit silver unaffected by the U.S.' subsequent disqualification.  Silver, behind the greatest of all time, in one of the Olympics' marquee events.  The third-fastest country ever.  No sub-10 runners, no sub-20 runners, no runners with doping suspensions on their record.  A true team, youth on their side, staring into a Boltless future with a home-soil Olympics on the horizon.  Cambridge post-race: "In four years we'll try to bring home a better medal!"

Missing multi-year national champion Yuzo Kanemaru, the men's 4x400 m relay team, already lucky to have made the Olympics, didn't have the same luck, finishing 7th in its qualifying heat.  Women's 20 km race walker Kumiko Okada likewise couldn't match Arai's medal, finishing 16th in 1:32:42.  The day's other Japanese athlete in action, Miyuki Uehara, finished 15th in the women's 5000 m in 15:34.97.  Having turned heads by frontrunning her heat to become only the second Japanese woman to ever make an Olympic 5000 m final, Uehara tried the same approach but found the bar set several meters higher.  Dropping back as soon as 10000 m gold medalist Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia) made a move, Uehara struggled to maintain pace.  Her final time was 11 seconds slower than in her qualifying heat, but ranked last among the 17 starters on PB her 15th-place finish was a small triumph for someone totally unexpected to make the final.  With only the men's marathon yet to come for Japan she remains its top long distance performer of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Aug. 19, 2016
click here for complete results

Women's 5000 m Final
1. Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 14:26.17 - OR
2. Hellen Onsando Obiri (Kenya) - 14:29.77
3. Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia) - 14:33.59
4. Mercy Cherono (Kenya) - 14:42.89
5. Senbere Teferi (Ethiopia) - 14:43.75
-----
15. Miyuki Uehara (Japan) - 15:34.97

Men's 4x100 m Final
1. Jamaica - 37.27
2. Japan - 37.60 - AR
3. Canada - 37.64 - NR

Women's 20 km Race Walk Final
1. Hong Liu (China) - 1:28:35
2. Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez (Mexico) - 1:28:37
3. Xiuzhi Lu (China) - 1:28:42
-----
16. Kumiko Okada (Japan) - 1:32:42

Men's 50 km Race Walk Final
1. Matej Toth (Slovakia) - 3:40:58
2. Jared Tallent (Australia) - 3:41:16
3. Hirooki Arai (Japan) - 3:41:24
-----
4. Evan Dunfee (Canada) - 3:41:38 - NR
14. Takayuki Tanii (Japan) - 3:51:00
27. Koichiro Morioka (Japan) - 3:58:59

Men's 4x400 m Relay Heat 1
1. Jamaica - 2:58.29 - Q
2. U.S.A. - 2:58.38 - Q
3. Botswana - 2:59.35 - Q, NR
-----
7. Japan - 3:02.95

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, August 19, 2016

Rio de Janeiro Olympics Athletics Day Seven Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Japan's top two decathletes, Suzuki Hamamatsu AC teammates Keisuke Ushiro and Akihiko Nakamura, wrapped up their Rio Olympics with good second day performances to move up through the rankings.  24th and 25th after the first day of competition, Ushiro advanced to 20th, just shy of the 8000 point mark.  Nakamura won his 1500 m heat by over 10 seconds in 4:18.37 to pick up 823 points and move up to 22nd.

But the bigger news was in the men's 4x100 m heats, where the young Japanese team of Ryota Yamagata (Seiko), Shota Iizuka (Mizuno), Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) and Asuka Cambridge (Dome) lopped 0.35 seconds off the Japanese national record and 0.14 off China's minutes-old Asian record to win its heat in 37.68 over a Bolt-and Blake-less Jamaican squad.  With the U.S.A. and Canada also not running some of their A-listers Japan's time ranked it 2nd going into the final just 0.03 behind the U.S. team. Anticipation is high for Japan's first sprint relay Olympic medal since Beijing.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Aug. 18, 2016
click here for complete results

Decathlon Final Standings
1. Ashton Eaton (U.S.A.) - 8893 - OR
2. Kevin Mayer (France) - 8834 - NR
3. Damian Warner (Canada) - 8666
-----
20. Keisuke Ushiro (Japan) - 7952
22. Akihiko Nakamura (Japan) - 7612

Men's 4x100 m Relay Heat Two
1. Japan - 37.68 - Q, AR
2. Jamaica - 37.94 - Q
3. Trinidad and Tobago - 37.96 - Q

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rio de Janeiro Olympics Athletics Day Six Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Japanese athletes were thin on the ground on the sixth day of athletics at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.    Men's javelin national champion Ryohei Arai (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) threw 84.16 m on his first qualifying round throw to make the final, the Japanese performance of the day, short and sweet.  His Suzuki teammates Akihiko Nakamura and Keisuke Ushiro ended the first day of the decathlon ranked near the bottom of the field, Nakamura 24th with 3899 points and Ushiro 25th with 3886.

On the track in the men's 5000 m heats, 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) echoed his run in the 10000 m final.  Ranked 17th of 25 in Heat One, Murayama ran up front early with Richard Ringer (Germany) before fading to 22nd in 14:26.72.  5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) was ranked 8th of 26 on PB in Heat Two, giving him a chance of becoming only the second Japanese man post-war to make an Olympic 5000 m final. Osako has lost countless key races by relying on his kick but seemed to have learned his lesson with the long surges he used to win both the 5000 m and 10000 m titles this year.  In Rio he kept himself in a good position near the mid-front end of the pack, and with around four laps to go he seemed to be setting up for a long move.  But backing off, he settled back in the pack and was left behind when the kickers' race began.

Osako finished 16th in 13:31.45, the second-fastest time ever by a Japanese man at the Olympics but far from the cutoff from making the final and, relative to his ranking amid the competition, a weaker placing than Murayama's.  The two men's performances underscored the strength of the women's 5000 m final-qualifying run by Miyuki Uehara (Team Daiichi Seimei) yesterday, the lone bright spot in Japanese long distance so far at the Rio Olympics.  All that remains is her run in the final and Sunday's Olympics-ending men's marathon.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Aug. 17, 2016
click here for complete results

Men's 5000 m Heat One
1. Hagos Gebrehiwet (Ethiopia) - 13:24.65 - Q
2. Albert Rop (Bahrain) - 13:24.95 - Q
3. Mo Farah (Great Britain) - 13:25.25 - Q
4. Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei (Uganda) - 13:25.70 - Q
5. Bernard Lagat (U.S.A.) - 13:26.02 - Q
-----
22. Kota Murayama (Japan) - 14:26.72

Men's 5000 m Heat Two
1. Paul Chelimo (U.S.A.) - 13:19.54 - Q, PB
2. Muktar Edris (Ethiopia) - 13:19.65 - Q
3. Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopia) - 13:19.67 - Q
4. Birhanu Balew (Bahrain) - 13:19.83 - Q
5. Andrew Butchart (Great Britain) - 13:20.08 - Q
-----
16. Suguru Osako (Japan) - 13:31.45

Men's Javelin Throw Qualification Group B
1. Keshorn Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago) - 88.68 m - Q
2. Johannes Vetter (Germany) - 85.96 - Q
3. Ryohei Arai (Japan) - 84.16 - Q

Men's Decathlon Day One Standings
1. Ashton Eaton (U.S.A.) - 4621
2. Kai Kazmirek (Germany) - 4500
3. Damien Warner (Canada) - 4489
-----
24. Akihiko Nakamura (Japan) - 3899
25. Keisuke Ushiro (Japan) - 3886

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved