by Brett Larner
The Japanese men's 4x100 m relay team came through with a solid 38.07, just 0.04 off the national record, to finish 2nd in their heat and make the London Olympics final thanks in no small part to another big anchor run from 2010 World Jr. Championships 200 m gold medalist Shota Iizuka (Chuo Univ.).
100 m national champion Ryota Yamagata (Keio Univ.) led off with a superb opening leg to put Japan up front with the heat-winning U.S.A. team. Despite characteristically smooth exchanges and good runs from past national champion Masashi Eriguchi (Team Osaka Gas) and Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu), the only returning member of Japan's bronze medal-winning Beijing Olympics team, Japan slipped back over the next two legs before Iizuka took over. Showing a flash of the brilliance of his collegiate national record anchor run at the 2010 Kanto Region University T&F Championships, Iizuka blew by all but the U.S. to put Japan into 2nd, just off the Beijing team's 38.03 national record.
The Japanese team goes into the final ranked 4th, far behind the U.S.A. and Jamaica but almost even with Canada, which clocked 38.05 in Heat One. Trinidad & Tobago is just behind. In Beijing Japan got the bronze thanks in part to a fumbled exchange knocking the U.S. out of competition. This time the bronze and maybe a national record are just within in reach under their own power if the Japanese team can show the same composure in the final and Iizuka can go even deeper into whatever well brings him that anchor leg magic.
2012 London Olympics Athletics - Day Eight
London, England, 8/10/12
click here for complete results
Men's 4x100 m Relay Heat Two
1. U.S.A. - 37.38 - Q, NR
2. Japan (Yamagata/Eriguchi/Takahira/Iizuka) - 38.07 - Q
3. Trinidad & Tobago - 38.10 - Q
4. France - 38.15 - q
5. Australia - 38.17 - q, =AR
6. Poland - 38.31 - NR
7. Germany - 38.37
8. Hong Kong - 38.61
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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