(July 19 to August 4, 1996)

Japan sent a delegation of 499 athletes and officials to the Atlanta Olympic Games. It's the most number of people ever to participate from this country. The delegation to Barcelona was 377. The largest delegation ever before this one was 437 in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. The surge of members this time has mainly to do with the increase of women. They account for 49% of the athletes.

Post Atlanta Movement

The darling of Atlanta for the Japanese seems to be women's marathon runner Yuko Arimori. The bronze medalist paid homage to her birthplace in Okayama on August 9. She received an enormous welcome. A brass band performed at Okayama train station and 70,000 people stood by the road to see her on a motorcade. After the procession, Arimori visited the governor and local mayor. She was presented honorary citizens awards. I'm sure everybody was enchanted by Arimori's brilliant smile again.

On August 7, 273 Olympians and officials attended the formal so-called "dissolution ceremony" at a major hotel in Tokyo. Judo silver medalist Ryoko Tamura who played the flag bearer in the Olympics opening ceremony returned the Japanese banner to the president of the Japan Olympic Committee Hironoshin Furuhashi.

Medalists and other athletes and ball players who made impact on Japanese Olympic viewers had other parties to attend the same day. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto invited 87 of them to his official residence and presented them with gifts. He seemed to have had a good time chatting with Yuko Arimori, especially since they both come from Okayama.

Bronze medal winner, cyclist Takanobu Jumonji was invited to a party sponsored by Japan's cycling bodies. He received 40 million yen from 5 organizations! He was highly acclaimed for promoting Japan's pro cycle race scene by winning the medal.

Medal Count
Gold: 3
Silver: 6
Bronze: 5
It's considered one of the worst performance by Japanese in the Olympics.

Michiyo's Note: Now I can go back to my regular routine. It was hectic! I was busy with my regular job, watching the Olympics and writing about it. All in all, I'm glad that Japanese TV stations have increased their broadcasting hours by 20 hours compared to their Barcelona broadcast. That's during th 16 days, a total of 930 hours.

Updates on Japanese Athletes in Atlanta

Closing Ceremony (August 4)
Women's marathon bronze medalist, Yuko Arimori carried the Japanese flag, representing the country. It was great to see her again at the Olympics smiling brilliantly.

Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei performed his guitar while all kinds of sporting activities were put on at the ceremony. He wore a shiny silver-blue suit and was really into it!

16th Day of Competitions(August 4)
Japan's marathon star Hiromi Taniguchi was with the leading group until the 22 km. area. According to his comment after he finished the race, he said that his legs were extremely tired then already, and he felt his heydays are gone. Taniguchi was the 19th runner to complete the men's marathon. He clocked 2 hours 17 mins. 26 secs.--the second to his slowest time in running a 42.195 km. race. Other Japanese runners were very slow. Masaki Ohya came in 54th and Kenjiro Jitsui 93rd. The marathon received the highest TV rating among the Olympic sporting events. It reached as high as 58.1 percent.

15th Day(August 3)
Japanese team ran in the finals of the men's 1600 meter relay. 200 meter runner, Kohji Ito was the second runner. The team broke the Japanese record at 3 min. 0.76 secs. and finished 5th. It's the first time since the Los Angeles Olympics 64 years ago that Japan's track team raced in the finals of the event. The Canadian team's performance is out of the question!

14th Day(August 2)
In the match for the gold medal in the baseball game between Japan and Cuba, Japan was defeated 9 to 13. It was indeed a game worth watching. And Japan really did a good job facing the team which has always been considered the best in the world. By the way, Japanese sports papers are splashing news that Cuba's Omar Linares has admitted that he hopes to play in Japan soon.

The synchronized swimming team showed off its "mikoshi" lift. That is, having one member of the team lifted out of the pool as if she is a portable shrine. In the end, Japan won the bronze medal. It's the 4th bronze for Japan's synchronized swimming team at the Olympics.

In wrestling's 74 kilo freestyle class too, Takuya Ohta won the bronze medal. Thanks to him, Japan's medal winning streak continuing from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics was not stopped.

Japan won a silver and 2 bronze medals in all, this day.

13th Day(August 1)
A medal was won by Japan for the first time at the Olympics in the yachting event. The result of 6 days of races was a silver medal for the duo Yumiko Shige and Alicia Kinoshita in the women's 470 class competition. The two have been partners for the past 5 years and are even sharing a house in Saga Prefecture, southern Japan. They placed 5th in Barcelona. As of May this year, they've ranked number 2 in the world.

In baseball, Japan smacked 5 homeruns in the semi-finals against USA. In all, Japan won 11 to 2. Japan will face Cuba, which they lost to in the preliminary league, in the finals for the gold.

Koji Ito couldn't make it to the 200 meter finals. At any rate, Michael Johnson was just incredible running the distance faster than anyone else in the world.

Michiyo's Note: I'm glad to see the start of rhythmic gymnastics! The dances are so lovely.

12th Day(July 31)
There seems to be still some hope for Japanese athletes in the track event. Koji Ito had made it to the semi-finals of the men's 200 meter race. He's the first Japanese to proceed to this level.

In women's springboard diving, 3-time Olympian Yuki Motobuchi placed 6th. Her best standing ever. She did though have the chance to win a medal after 3 performances, so she may not be too happy with the result.

11th Day(July 30)
Japan's baseball team defeated the Italians 12 to 1 in the preliminaries. This victory has given Japan it's 4th win against 3 losses--taking the team to the the medal round. Japan has always won a medal in the Olympic baseball event, and they're going for it again this time.

The synchronized swimming team has on the first day of competition placed third. The Japanese team performed under the theme of "ninja" for the technical routine.

10th Day(July 29)
Women's tennis quarter-finals between Japan's Kimiko Date and Sanchez Vicario was a very close match. Date took the first set 6 to 4, Sanchez took the next one, 6 to 3, and the final set was quite a battle. Sanchez won it 10 to 8. This game went on for more than 2 hours and a half.

Other performances by Japanese participants this day have had disappointing results. In the track events, Yvonne Kanazawa who took part in the women's 100 meter hurdle and Kazuhiko Yamazaki a 400-meter hurdle runner, both were out of the events after the first round. Both of them were initially expected to advance to the finals. Chire Koyama lost in the quarter-finals of women's table tennis to Barcelona Olympic silver medalist Qiao Hong.

9th Day(July 28)
We'd like to give a big hand to Yuko Arimori in the women's marathon. She came in third, clocking 2 hours 28 minutes and 39 seconds. As soon as she ran across the finish line, Valentina Yegorova who finished before her, came up to Arimori to give her a big hug. This scene reminds us of the marathon in Barcelona. Yegorova won the gold and Arimori enterd the goal from behind, complimented eachother with kisses. But it seemed like Arimori's face was beaming more with emotion than at the last Olympics when she finished better. I guess, having overcome injury of the heel, completing the race with no regret, and winning tremendous fan support--meant so much more than a gold.

Japanese women are not known as capable track runners. But exceptions do happen. In the women's 5000 meter race, Michiko Shimizu passed one runner in the final lap to win 4th place. She broke the national record clocking 15 minutes 9.05 seconds. She seemed to be proud of her achievement. Since Ikuko Yoda placed 5th in the 80 meter hurdles in 1964, no woman did any better in track events.

The best standing for Japanese men in gymnastics resulted in 5th place. That's by Yoshiaki Hatakeda in the men's individual event of pommel vault. All gymnastic events ended this day, and the Japanese men's team have stopped the medal winning streak that's been continuing since the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. It's quite a shame.

See "Latest in Volleyball" for Olympic information in that sport.

8th Day(July 27)
There weren't any top finishers this day. Worth mentioning though is table tennis player, Chire Koyama. She's advanced to the quarter-finals in the women's singles. She's was in fact 1987 world champion representing China. Now married to a Japanese who is her coach, Koyama has been granted Japanese citizenship.

Michiyo's Note: I was fascinated by the excitment and tension in th men's 100 meter track race although it was a bit upsetting that Linford Christie was dismissed from it. Donovan Bailey's 9.84 world record was quite something! I was also thrilled to see a competitor I actually am acquainted with playing in the women's finals in beach volleyball and winning the gold. She's Jackie Silva of Brazil. I talked with her in two of her visits to Japan. Para bens Jackie! (meaning congratulations in Portuguese)

7th Day(July 26)
Another gold was won in judo this day, this time by Tadahiro Nomura in the men's 60 kilo category. Nomura was aggressive throughout all rounds. Especially stunning was in the 3rd round against the Russian world champion. Nomura didn't give up even though he was losing "yuko" points. With only 14 seconds left, Nomura succeeded in a "wazaari". That victory seemed to have boosted Nomura's spirit to go for the gold. By the way, 21-year old Nomura's uncle was gold medalist in judo at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

A major upset occurred in the women's 48 kilo division. Top favorite Ryoko Tamura reached the finals as expected. There, she faced 16-year old North Korean, Kyi Sun whom nobody's ever heard of and to our surprise, Japan's most beloved judoka was defeated by 2 points. Tamura not only lost the gold medal, her consecutive win record was halted at 84. All judo events ended this day.

Track and field events have taken off! Nobuharu Asahara did very well for a Japanese in the men's 100 meters. He clocked 10.19 seconds to proceed to the semi-finals. Asahara is the first Japanese in 28 years to go this far at the Olympics 100 meter race.

So far Japan's won 3 gold medals--tying with the number won in Barcelona. Unfortunately, no medals were won in swimming events where expectation was enormous.

6th Day(July 25)
The last of the Nakamura brothers turn has come to compete in judo came this day. Yukinari Nakamura took part in the men's 65 kilo division. He attacked his opponent well up until the finals. The winner of the division was decided by the judges, and Nakamura was not the one selected. He received only the silver medal.

Noriko Sugawara made a great recovery in the women's 52 kg.weight class although she lost in the 3rd round. She was given the chance to fight on for the bronze and she got it with an "ippon".

In soccer, the Japanese team defeated Hungary 3 to 2, ending their competition at the Olympics. Too bad, they didn't score enough to overwhelm the other teams in the same group D also with 2 wins and a loss--namely Brazil and Nigeria to proceed to the tournament. Still, Japan did great for a team that hasn't made it to the Olympics for 28 years.

The Japanese women's 800 meter medley team in swimming did pretty good although they didn't win a medal. They came in 4th in their final standing clocking a Japan record of 8 minutes and 7.46 seconds. This is one of the newly entered competitions at this Olympics.

5th Day(July 24)
With 3 seconds left, Kenzo Nakamura reversed the judgement in the finals of the men's 71 kg. division in judo. He took the Olympic gold medal. Nakamura was indeed ecstatic about his feat. He is youngest of the brothers competiting in judo. His eldest brother was defeated earlier in the 95 kilo category.

The bronze medal went to Takanobu Jumonji in cycling's 1000 meter time trial. He is only the second Japanese to win a medal in the cycling event at the Olympic Games ever. Jumonji has been racing professionally since April 1995. Before the Olympics, he's had experience racing abroad only once--that's at the World Cup in Havana in June, finishing only 6th there. So it must have been a big surprise for competitors and the media to find him finishing third this time. Jumonji was later told that he will be awarded by various cycling bodies and the Japan Olympic Committee with a total of 50 million yen or over 500 thousand U.S. dollars.

Meanwhile, the Japanese swimmers are turning out to be a major disappointment. Even the swimmers who have clocked some of the world's best times this season are not competing in top level at the Olympics.

4th Day(July 23)
The first gold medal for Japan! Noone seemed to have given much attention on Yuko Emoto-- competitor in the 61 kg. division of women's judo. Perhaps, she was able to concentrate better without the distraction from fans and the media. Emoto raised both hands in the finals after defeating her Belgium opponent, and shook and cried with joy.

Another Japanese was awarded in judo. He's Toshihiko Koga, Barcelona gold medalist in the men's 71 kg. division and 3 time world champion. But he didn't seem happy at all to win the silver this time in the 78 kilo category. He was, on the other hand looking down and crying in disappointment. He commented that it's meaningless if he doesn't win the gold.

On the negative side of results--Japan's women gymnasts finished with the lowest points among the 12 countries in the team event. Japan's soccer team lost to Nigeria 0 to 2 in their second game in Group D. Even the baseball team which has been highly expected to win the medal is losing games. They succumbed to their second defeat in the game against Australia 6 to 9 in the preliminary league.

3rd Day (July 22)
No medals were won by Japan this day. The best performance was by swimmer Mai Nakamura in the women's 100 meter backstroke. She placed 4th only 0.21 second behind the bronze medalist.

There was a major upset in judo again. Barcelona Olympics gold medalist in the men's 78 kg. Hidehiko Yoshida raised his category to compete in the 86 kilo division this time. However, he lost in the first round. He was able to proceed to the loser's side of the tournament, but placed only 5th.

Japanese men gymnasts performed the worst ever in the Olympics for the team event. They finished 10th place which is really quite a shame. Ever since the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games they were among the top 3 contenders as a team. It's true that they have been unlucky this time, because they lost one gymnast just before the competitions began. Still, who would've imagined they'd finish this low!

Michiyo's Note:I thought I'd be able to see the fascinating techniques that two of Japan's top gymnasts developed for the Olympics. It's just too bad neither of them will be able to perform them in the individual events.

2nd Day (July 21)
Miracles can happen! Japan's national soccer team defeated the Brazilian team which includes world class player Bebeto-- 1 to 0. This is in their first match in group D. The Brazilians attacked the Japanese side more. However, 27 minutes into the latter half of the game, the ball weakly slipped toward the Brazilian goal and Japan's Teruyoshi Ito, successfully kicked it in. This incredibly surprising victory is making headlines in Japan. "Extras" were even distributed in major cities. We must give a big hand to goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi who successfully saved the ball many times.

Japan's first medal was won by Yoko Tanabe in the women's 72 kg. division. She took the silver. It adds to her silver medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games.

Michiyo's Note:I'm so happy to be able to mention some good news!

1st Day(July 20)
Japan started out with no medals. That's even in the sport Japan is the founder of. I'm talking about judo. In the men's over 95 kg. weight division, Naoya Ogawa placed only 5th. Noriko Anno of the women's over 72 kilo division was devastated. She lost to an "ippon" in only the first round. Since her defeater lost in the second round, she lost her chance to try out the loser's side of the tournament.

Opening Day(July 19)
The Atlanta Games opened with all IOC members or 197 countries and regions announcing their participation. The number makes this centennial Olympics the largest ever. In one of the opening acts, Japanese singer and song writer Shohkichi Kina performed. Kina is accredited for making Okinawan pops well-known.