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

Yuta Shitara Breaks Japanese Men's Half Marathon National Record in Berlin Marathon Tuneup at Usti nad Labem Half

A week after his 28:55 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km and just eight days out from the Berlin Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made the great leap forward, taking 8 seconds off Atsushi Sato's 2007 half marathon Japanese national record, finishing 8th at the Czech Republic's Usti nad Labem Half Marathon.

Shitara is probably most well-known outside Japan for going through halfway under 62 minutes during his marathon debut at this year's Tokyo Marathon and still ending up with a 2:09:27, but he's been turning heads in Japan since his second year at Toyo University when he broke a stage record at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden and outkicked the U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein to finish in 1:01:48 at the NYC Half two months later, until this year the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S soil.

Three weeks before Tokyo this year he ran a 1:01:19 PB at the Marugame Half. Many people would call that a solid tuneup three weeks out from a serious marathon, but eight days? In P…

Ayuko Suzuki Leaves for Altitude Training in Boulder Motivated for the Marathon

2017 London World Championships 5000 m and 10000 m runner Ayuko Suzuki (25, Japan Post) left from Narita Airport on Sept. 18 for altitude training in Boulder, Colorado.

Two days earlier at a half marathon in Czech Republic, Yuta Shitara (25, Honda), like Suzuki born in 1991, broke the 10-year-old Japanese men's half marathon national record in a time of 1:00:17. "It's a big motivation to see an athlete the same age as me doing something like that," she said. Showing her determination to be one of her generation's leaders, she added, "I'll be 28 [at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics], right in my prime mentally and physically. I want to run big too."

In the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics Suzuki has the marathon in sight along with the track. "I need to run a half marathon and marathon somewhere once to check [how well they suit me]," she said. "Coach and I will be talking about it." If everything goes according to plan, December's Sanyo …

New Half Marathon NR Holder Yuta Shitara's Twin Brother Keita Joins Hitachi Butsuryu Corporate Team

Having left the Konica Minolta men's corporate team at the end of March this year, Keita Shitara, 25, announced on Sept. 19 that he will join the Hitachi Butsuryu team. The official announcement is scheduled for Sept. 20.

As a member of Toyo University Shitara was part of two Hakone Ekiden-winning teams before joining Konica Minolta following his graduation in 2014. His first year at Konica Minolta Shitara ran New Year Ekiden national championships' toughest stage, but since his second year he has experienced a slump. Saying, "I need to change my environment in order to get my head straight and back on track," Shitara chose to leave the team at the end of March, returning to Toyo as his training base.

The Hitachi Butsuryu team came into being in April, 2012 as the successor to the Hitachi Cable Marathon Team. It is based in Matsudo, Chiba. Under the leadership of head coach Manabu Kitaguchi, 45, it has grown steadily, placing 10th at this year's New Year Ekiden.…