Skip to main content

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

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
Cambridge will get most of the glory, but Kiryu ran a tremendous 3rd leg. It looked like he was even with the US and Jamaica at the start, but finished well ahead of them. That is, he outran Gay and Blake, two of the greatest sprinters of all time.

Most-Read This Week

Kusu Runs Steeplechase World-Leading Time, Yabuta and Yoshimura Break National Records, Tanaka Just Misses Fukushi's NR - Kitami and Liege Highlights

Wednesday afternoon and evening saw the fourth meet in this year's five-part Hokuren Distance Challenge series, this time in the town of Kitami. The program included the little-raced 2000 m steeplechase as a tuneup for Monday's series-closing Abashiri meet, and in both the women's and men's races the national records went down. A top collegiate steepler while at Kyoto Sangyo University, Yui Yabuta (Otsuka Seiyaku) ran 6:27.74 to break the women's record. In the men's race 1500 m specialist Yasunari Kusu (Ami AC) surprised many by breaking the Japanese national record with a world-leading 5:31.82 despite little experience in the steeple.

The women's 3000 m in Kitami was more explicitly set up as a national record attempt, with four of the ten fastest Japanese women ever over the distance lined up to gun for the great Kayoko Fukushi's 8:44.40 record dating back to 2002. From the gun it was out at NR pace, with pacers Hellen Ekalale (Toyota Jidoshokki) an…

Lemeteki and Aoki Win Shibestu Half

Kenyan Razini Lemeteki (Takushoku Univ.) and relative unknown Nanami Aoki (Iwatani Sangyo) took the top spots in hot and sunny conditions at the Shibetsu Half Marathon in Hokkaido. With Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) doing early frontrunning in the men's race only to fade to a 20th-place finish in 1:06:40 Lemeteki had little competition for the win in 1:03:25. 2017 Shibetsu winner Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota) was the top Japanese man at 2nd in 1:03:42, beating MGC Race Olympic marathon trials qualifiers Daichi Kamino (New Balance) and Naoki Okamoto (Chugoku Denryoku) - by 4 seconds and 11 seconds. Other MGC Race qualifiers Masato Imai (Toyota Jidoshokki), Yuji Iwata (MHPS) and Ryo Kiname (MHPS) all struggled, none of them breaking 66 minutes.

Aoki won the women's race easily in 1:15:12 by almost a minute over Mai Nagaoka (Sysmex). MGC Race qualifiers Reia Iwade (Under Armour) and Keiko Nogami (Juhachi Ginko) were listed to start but apparently did not run.
33rd Suffolkland Shibets…

Koike Runs Japan's Third Sub-10, Niiya Clears Doha 5000 m Standard - Weekend Track Highlights

Japanese athletes were busy on the track overseas this weekend. At Friday's Stumptown Twilight meet in Portland, indoor mile Asian record holder Nanami Arai (Honda) took 2nd in the men's 1500 m in 3:39.58, his second time this season breaking 3:40. It used to be a rarity to see a Japanese man clear 3:40, something that happened once every couple of years, but so far this season four Japanese men have done it a total of six times. If the distance had even a fraction of the prestige of the Hakone Ekiden, or of that it has in the U.S., there's no doubt there'd be more.

Speaking of distances with prestige, on the first day of London's Muller Anniversary Games Diamond League spectacular Yuki Koike (Sumitomo Denko) became the third Japanese man to join the sub-10 club, running 9.98 (+0.5 m/s) for 4th in the men's 100 m final. Koike also ran 2nd on the Japanese men's 4x100 m relay team, which clocked a season best 37.78 for 2nd despite featuring only two regulars…