Qualification Movements in Japan

The national team won the berth to the Olympics back in September '95 at the Asian preliminaries. The team travelled to Florida U.S.A. in February for training. They held a practice game against the Minnesota Twins on February 29 and defeated the U.S. major league team 7 to 3. On March 23, the national team overwhelmed the Japanese pro baseball all star team 6 to 3. This amateur team is quite something!

Women's Basketball
Why am I specifying women's basketball? Because the men didn't qualify. It wasn't easy for the women though. It's been 20 years since they've last played at the Olympics. Since June 24, the women's team are practicing with last season's men's national champion members. It's very important for them to practice defense against taller players. The Japanese women's height is on the average 1.77 meters.

6 runners--3 for men and 3 for women were announced on March 17. Two of the women runners have already established their names in the world of@marathon. One is Yuko Arimori, silver medalist at the Barcelona Olympic Games. The other is Junko Asari, winner of the 1993 World Championships in Athletics. Izumi Maki qualfied by running her first ever marathon in Nagoya in March. She has been better known as a long distance track runner. For the men's, two are completely fresh faces. One is Kenjiro Jitsui, and the other is Masaki Ohya. The remaining man, Hiromi Taniguchi was world champion in 1991. However, he hasn't performed too well recently.

Japan was able to win one of the 3 berths available at the Asian Olympic Soccer Tournament in March, coming in second after South Korea. What a breakthrough it was for Japan! The team hasn't made the Olympics since the 1968 Games in Mexico.@It's been announced in early May that the team will participate in the Olympic Games with only the players under 23. But imagine, they've been grouped with world champion Brazil !

This is the sports in which Japan is expected to win at least several gold medals. That's understandable because judo is a martial art born and developed in Japan. The select Olympians certainly have to fight the pressure that would be cast on them. Those lucky people (or lucky depending on how you take it) have been announced. Six women judoka to compete in Atlanta were decided on March 30 at the All-Japan invitational weightclass judo tournament. Japan's wonderwoman, Ryoko Tamura has gained her Olympic berth by clinching her 6th title and 80th consecutive victory--an incredible feat! Here's the list of women representing Japan
48 kg.Ryoko Tamura
52 kg.Noriko Sugawara
56 kg.Noriko Mizoguchi
61 kg.Yuko Emoto
66 kg.Risa Kazumi
72 kg.Yoko Tanabe
Over 72 kg. Noriko Anno

In men's judo, an unprecedented selection of 3 brothers was announced on April 7 after the All Japan competition. Take a look at the members.
60 kg. Tadahiro Nomura
65 kg. Yukimasa Nakamura
71 kg. Kenzo Nakamura
78 kg. Toshihiko Koga
86 kg. Hidehiko Yoshida
95 kg. Yoshio Nakamura
Over 95 kg.Naoya Ogawa

30 swimmers have been chosen to represent Japan on April 8. They include Barcelona Olympic gold medalist in the woman's 200 meter breast stroke, Kyoko Iwasaki, and the 4th runner up in the men's 100 meter breast stroke, Akira Hayashi. Also selected are up and coming swimmers such as 14 year old Ayari Aoyama and Hitomi Kashima who tied with the world record in this year's women's 100 meter butterfly and 200 meter butterfly, respectively.

By the way, different style bathing suits have been developed for female swimmers. That is, the design of the straps and collar, for example, depends on the event she will be taking part in. It's claimed to be the first such attempt in the world.

The top 7 male and female gymnasts in the national championship called NHK Cup, automatically qualified to the Olympic Games on May 4. Naoya Tsukahara is son of the gold medalist at the 1976 Olympic Games. Yoshiaki Hatakeda and Hikaru Tanaka are medal hopes. By the way, Tanaka has developed a new technique for the parallel bar which he is brushing up to perform in front of the world.

Six women and a man will be going to the Olympic Games. For the first time, sisters will team up to play the doubles. They are Akiko and Aiko Miyamura. It's in doubt whether any of them will be able to win a medal.

Track and Field
Records were marked one after another at the Japan Track and Field Championships held from June 6 to 9. This event also served as an Olympic qualifier. There were indeed an incredible number of records broken. Some say, perhaps the new track of the brand new stadium in Osaka has something to do with it. Here are some of the astonishing records.
* In men's 100 meters, Nobuharu Asahara marked 10.14 seconds breaking his Japanese record
* Koji Ito won the men's 200 meter at 20.29 seconds breaking the Asian record.It's the 9th best in the world this year.
* A women who we've never heard of emerged to stardom at the meet. She's Yvonne Kanazawa Scott who is half American and Japanese. She broke the women's 100 meter hurdles record at 13.08 seconds.
* In the women's 10,000 meter race, all top 3 finishers broke the Japanese record. Hiromi Suzuki marked 31.1940 minutes, followed closely by Yuko Kawakami and Masako Chiba.
Of course all those mentioned above are among the athletes chosen to compete in Atlanta. In all, 27 of them qualified to take part in the Olympic Games according to the June 10 announcement. Although in recent years, track and field athletes lacked any spark, the results at the domestic championships have given us hope for the coming Olympics.

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