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Cali 22 World U20 Championships Day 5 Japanese Results

Japan finally got onto the medal board at the Cali 22 World U20 Championships with medal-winning performances in two of the country's strongest events bookending the fifth day of the meet and one more unexpected one to punctuate them.

In the day's first event, Ai Oyama and Ayane Yanai took silver and bronze in the women's 10000 m race walk. It almost literally couldn't have been closer up front, with Mexican Karla Ximena Serrano beating Oyama by just 0.09 to take gold in a PB 46:24.35. Yanai was all alone in the bronze position in 46:43.07, almost a minute ahead of 4th-placer Olivia Sandery of Australia.

The Japanese men were expected to medal in the day's last event, the 4x100 m relay where they had led the qualifying round. First three runners Kowa Ikeshita, Hiroto Fujiwara and Shunki Tateno lacked the same kind of spark in the final, and when anchor Hiroki Yanagita took the baton he was back in a group around 4th~6th. But with a brilliant run he ran down tough competition including American Brandon Miller and Jamaican Adrian Kerr, just outleaning Kerr at the line for 2nd with both teams clocking 39.35. South Africa was 1st in 39.06, but on review they were disqualified. Japan was elevated to gold, its first-ever after silver in 2014 and 2016. The U.S. picked up bronze following South Africa's disqualification.

The biggest surprise of the day came in the women's hammer throw. In an event where athletes not named Murofushi have almost never been a factor, Raika Murakami was ranked 5th in the field by PB and 10th by SB. She led the first round with an opening throw of 61.29, then dropped to 3rd behind Italian Rachele Mori and Mexico's Paola Bueno Calvillo despite a 61.45 m SB on her second throw. That was the best she could deliver, but while both Mori and Calvillo continued to build Murakami hung on to bronze by 0.28 m. Like Haruka Kitaguchi's bronze in the women's javelin throw in Eugene, Murakami's medal was a welcome addition to Japan's otherwise relatively limited range of areas of strength.

But not everything was great. After both H.S. NR holder Keita Sato and 5000 m 7th-placer Hiroto Yoshioka made the men's 3000 m final, both were listed as DNS without any advance notice. As of this writing no explanation has been made public, but given the number of national team members at last month's Oregon World Championships who had positive COVID tests it's hard to see any other likely explanation.

Another setback came in the men's 10000 m race walk, where Shotaro Shimoike and Riku Oie struggled to perform. Like Oyama and Yanai ranked as potential medalists pre-race, Shimoike finished only 17th in 44:48.45 and Oike 19th in 45:53.21. Medals went to Turkey's Mazlum Demir and Hayrettin Yildiz, gold and bronze in 42:36.02 and 43:07.95, and Algerian Ismail Benhammouda, silver in 42:42.49.

In between, Sojiro Moritaka was 8th in the men's 400 m hurdles final in 51.23, the only Japanese man to make the final. Ryusei Nakamura and Kento Inoue both finished outside the top 8 in the men's javelin throw final, Nakamura 9th at 68.17 m and Inoue 11th at 66.61 m.

As with the 4x100 m, the Japanese men led 4x400 m qualification with a season-best 3:07.25 to win Heat 3. Jamaica was next-fastest at 3:07.32 to win Heat 2, with the U.S.A. winning Heat 1 in 3:07.82 and South Africa making it in on time from Heat 3. The final looks set to be a rematch of the main powers from the 4x100 m final.

© 2022 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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