Japan’s Asian Games track and judo superstars came to the fore on Thursday, helping the country to a seven-gold day at the Asian Games in Indonesia.
The men’s 4×100 meter relay squad showed that their Rio Olympic silver was no fluke as they won the country’s first gold in 20 years in the event, while four judoka, including reigning Olympic champion Shohei Ono, battled their way to victory.
(Men’s 4×100 meter relay)
The golds in Indonesia, including one in track cycling and another in the men’s 50-kilometer race walk, pushed Japan to a total of 59, more than 10 above its tally from four years ago in South Korea, with still three days of events remaining.
Japan’s flying foursome of Ryota Yamagata, Shuhei Tada, Yoshihide Kiryu and Asuka Cambridge had a clear win in the 4×100, clocking a 38.16-second time for gold.
Yamagata, however, said missing out on breaking the 38-second barrier, as they did in finishing second to Usain Bolt and Jamaica at the Rio Games, was a bit of a let-down.
«We were aiming for the title, so I am really pleased to have won a gold medal,» said Yamagata, who won bronze in the 100 just days ago. «But it was a little disappointing that we could not achieve a time in the 37-second range as we were targeting.»
Ono made his comeback from a self-imposed break from judo following his Rio 2016 success, and he did not get everything his own way.
The 26-year-old judoka was pushed into extra-time in the gold medal bout against South Korean An Chang Rim, with only a desperation waza-ari allowing him to escape with 73-kg event with a win.
(Shohei Ono, 2nd from right)
«I knew that if I backed down even once, the road to the Tokyo Olympics would be cut off, so I fought with an unbending, strong determination,» said Ono. «I am genuinely happy about it because I had never won (an Asian Games gold before). It’s every four years and you don’t always have the chance to take part.»
Momo Tamaoki, Nami Nabekura and Saki Niizoe added gold medals in their events, rounding out a stellar day for Japan on the judo mats.
Hayato Katsuki overcame a five-minute penalty to record a men’s 50-km walk victory. The 27-year-old battled the heat and his opponents to finish in 4:03.30, more than three minutes ahead of China’s Wang Qin.
«I’m happy with the gold medal but also know I have to improve on my walk form. I’m having mixed feelings,» Katsuki said.
In the track cycling omnium — a four-phase event involving scratch, tempo, elimination and points races on the banked track — defending Asian Games champion Eiya Hashimoto claimed gold, adding to Yumi Kajihara’s win in the women’s event.
(Men’s track cycling omnium)
Hashimoto showed that persistence pays, as he took the gold despite only winning the elimination race.
«I was up on points at the end, so that made for an advantage in the (final) race,» the 24-year-old said. «My goal was to stay on top of my opponent from Hong Kong (Leung Chun Wing) and not allow him to close the points gap.»
«The last games I had a dark horse victory, but it wasn’t luck this time.»
Hashimoto’s track cycling colleague Tomohiro Fukaya took silver in the men’s sprint to tally Japan’s seventh medal at the velodrome.
There was also silver won in trampoline gymnastics, as Hikaru Mori split a pair of Chinese athletes on the podium in the women’s final. The women’s doubles team of Toshiki Uematsu and Riko Hayashida added a soft tennis bronze.
The men’s 4×400 athletics team won a late bronze, finishing well behind a Qatari quartet that set a new Asian record.
Japan also had some success in team sports.
The women’s handball team secured bronze with a 43-14 demolition of Thailand, while the men’s hockey team had a stunning 1-0 win over Pakistan in its semifinal to move into the gold medal match against Malaysia.
Shota Yamada was the hockey hero, scoring a 17th-minute goal from a penalty corner that delivered the win.
The women’s hockey team is also on a fine run, taking on the powerhouse Indians in the gold medal match on Friday.
The Japanese baseball team was handed a heavy 5-1 loss by South Korea in the first game of the super round, but hope remains as a win in the upcoming game against Taiwan could still produce a medal.
Despite getting 17 points from Mio Shinozaki, the women’s basketball team suffered an 86-74 semifinal loss to China and will face Taiwan in the bronze medal playoff.
All — Kyodo News+