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Japans medal expectation built on judo gold medals

2 Aug 2016 09:40

 Kyodo News    JudoHeroes

Japan is hoping for a medal rush in the first half of the 17-day Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and an improvement on its meager showing in judo from the London Games where the sole gold was won by Kaori Matsumoto in the women’s 57-kilogram class. Overall, Japan won just seven gold medals at the London Games. Top-ranking officials of the Japanese Olympic Committee delegation expressed their hope for 14 gold medals as the team gears up for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.

“This is a competition that we have to look steadily at as we move toward 2020, and how our athletes perform here will prove crucial for 2020. We are aiming for 14 gold medals and more than 30 medals overall,” Yuji Takada, the Japanese team manager told a press conference Monday after arriving in the city earlier in the day with JOC Deputy Chef de Mission Yasuhiro Yamashita.

Asked specifically about the importance of starting with a flourish in the opening week of the Aug. 5-21 Games, Takada said, “First off we will have two judoka in the lightweight categories. We want these athletes to all get gold medals, so it sets the ball in motion for more to come,” he said.

Takada added that Japan hopes to grab eight of the hoped for gold medals in judo and swimming before finishing up with another gold spree in gymnastics and wrestling.

Although not yet on the map of gold medal expectations, Takada said he remains hopeful that Japanese athletes will perform well in other sports such as fencing, taekwondo, archery and shooting.

Yamashita, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics gold medalist in the judo open category, was also upbeat about the prospects of good Rio performances leading to strong results four years later in Tokyo.

“We just got to Rio today and went to the Athletes’ Village for the first time. The weather was fine and gave us a refreshing feeling,” Yamashita said. “We want all our athletes to give their all at these Rio Olympics. We want this to be a springboard for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.”

“Of course we just got here and don’t know the pluses and minuses of Rio, but we do know that in order to have a successful Tokyo Games, that this competition will be a good yardstick to measure by.”

Earlier in the day, Matsumoto, who is seeking her second consecutive Olympic gold at 57 kg, appeared confident of defending her title after arriving in Rio with four other judoka ahead of her competition on Aug. 8 at Carioca Arena in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca.

“As long as I can demonstrate my strength I think getting my second straight title will come naturally,” the 28-year-old Matsumoto told reporters.

Men’s judo coach Kosei Inoue and women’s judo coach Mitsutoshi Nanjo were also among the latest arrivals in Rio. London Olympics bronze medalist Masashi Ebinuma and Beijing Olympics bronze medalist Misato Nakamura—competing in her third Olympics—will be seeking their first gold medals in the men’s 66-kg and women’s 52-kg categories, respectively.

Read the preview to know who are the favourites in each category.

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