Japan in 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City

77 countries and regions participating making it the largest Winter Games.


Modified on February 25, 2002

Closing Ceremony
It was a brilliant "concert" and star figure skaters enhanced it. They include Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, Katarina Witt to name a few. During the introduction of some memorable athletes in the past Olympics, the big jump of Japan's Masahiko Harada was introduced. Unfortunately, the feat was not achieved by the ski jumper this time. Japan for the first time since the Calgary Games had not clinched one gold medal this time.
Michiyo's Note: There are views that the reason Japan did not live up to the expectation at home was because of the ailing economic situation. A short track skater has been changing jobs, even though he won the gold medal in Nagano Games. He just can't find a job that can also support his gift in skating. Some of the ski jumpers are sponsored by Snow Brand. And the company has since the food poisoning incident the summer before last has been in bad condition. On top of that it was learned this year, that its subsidiary was relabelling beef products deliberately to trick the consumers to buying them. This subsidiary is to be close down.

Short track ends...and Japan
In the men's 500 meter, Satoru Terao was set to take revenge for his earlier disqualification. Then what seemed to be another tragedy occured in the semi-finals. As Terao was speed the curve, somebody banged into him and he fell. It seemed that the race was over for him. But the judges disqualified Apollo Ono, and Terao was in to compete in the final. However in the final, Terao was slower than any others to start. And finished 5th or last. In the men's 5000 meter relay, Japan was 5th. Japan finished all short track competitions without a medal.
A surprise feat in long distance skiing
Japan has never been so strong in cross country skiing, but 4 time Olympian Hiroyuki Imai dismissed that belief. In the 50 kilometer classical, he clocked 2 hr 9 min 41.3 to place 7th. It's the first time a Japanese has come in so high. Later he was promoted to 6th, since the winner was tested positive after the race.

Nordic combined sprint
In the nordic combined sprint, Daiki Takahashi took off to the latter part of the competition--that's cross country. As of his jump, he was the 4th to start. Since there were those strong in cross country right behind him, there wasn't much expectation in Japan for him to be able to even keep his place. But after he fell to 8th place, he recovered, finishing 6th. Meanwhile Kenji Ogiwara had the worst finish ever in nordic combined or 33rd.
One place short of a medal in speed skating
In the men's 10,000 meters, veteran skater Keiji Shirahata finished 4th with a time of 13 min 20.40. It's the best placing for a Japanese in the long distance race.

Suguri does better than expected
Japan's figure skater Fumie Suguri performed well again, this time in the free competition. She was able to succeed with all her jumps. In the end, the gold medal went to Sara Hughes of the US, surprisingly. But Suguri also finished a astonishing 5th place.

Terao is again disqualified
This time short track skater Satoru Terao raced in the men's 1500. It's the first race for him after a disappointing disqualification ruling in the 1000 meters. But he was again disqualified in the semi-finals.
gun pointing shock
Ski coach Kazunari Sasaki was playing with the rifle of the biathlon team the night of Feb 18. And that brought trouble. Police came in to see what was happening. And police claimed Sasaki pointed the rifle toward him. He was drunk with 2 other coaches. The head of the Japanese delegation later apologized.

Skaters in turmoil
Japan's speed skater finished with disappointing results. In the men's 1500 meters, Japan record holder Yusuke Imai was 34th. He said he made a mistake of speeding up too much in the beginning of the race. In women's figure skating, Fumie Suguri was able to keep herself from losing her balance after a combination jump. Thereafter, she did well. At the end of the short program she ranked 7th which is not bad.

Ski jumpers finish medal-less
For the team event, Masahiko Harada was the starter. He jumped 119.5 meters then 114.5. The second jumper 19 year old Daiki Yamada could not jump much further. Hidehari Miyahira had 2 relatively good jumps. Funaki Kazuyoshi marked 126.5 and 127 meters but not big enough jumps to win a medal. Japan finished 5th. It's the first time in 3 Olympics that Japan could not win even one medal in the ski jumping event.

Nordic combined team fall behind
The foursome which was standing 4th as of the jumping event, kicked off the later half of the race with Kenji Ogiwara. However, Ogiwara fell behind. And the anchor Daito Takahashi finished 8th.
Women's 1000 speed skating
Aki Tonoike performed the best of the Japanese women. She broke the Japan record to finish 1 min 14.64 and came in 7th. Eriko Sanmiya who's regarded the best in the competition among the Japanese was only 17th.

No medal in 1000 meter race
4 Japanese speed skaters took part in the men's event. The best performance was by Toyoki Takeda who finished 16th. Manabu Horii was 22nd. Canada's Jeremy Wotherspoon had another bad race. He was 13th.
Short track upsets
Japan's top short skater Satoru Terao was thought to have come in first in the semi-finals for the men's 1000 meters. But he was ruled disqualified for causing the fall of 2 skaters before him. But Japan does not agree with the ruling. In fact, the short track event was filled with upsets. The one good news for Japan amid everything is the 3000 meter women's team made it to the finals. By the way, in women's 500 meter, Yang Yang clinched China's first gold medal in the Winter Games.
Nordic combined team trying
Japan's nordic combined team finished 4th after all 4 skiers jumped. They include former king of ski Kenji Ogiwara. However, Ogiwara could not exceed the 90 meter line. And he expressed disappointment. Up and coming Daito Takahashi's jump enable the team to still aim for the medal.

Honda just short of a medal
Figure skater Takeshi Honda who was 2nd in the short program was unable to succeed twirling 4 times in the air. He could not do a perfect combination jump either. But he did skate well, and in the end finished 4th. Although he could not win a medal, he became the highest ranking Japanese man in the history of Olympic figure skating.
Women's speed skaters mostly fail
Tomomi Okazaki finished 6th in the 500 meter race in the end. She's the best among the Japanese. Sayuri Osuga who was expected to do will could not start the race well, as she lost balance. She was in tears after the race, and appeared unable to shake off the lousy start.

Ski jumpers fail
The previous Olympic gold medalist Kazuyoshi Funaki seemed upset after his last jump in the large hill event. He finished 7th. Masahiko Harada who clinched the bronze last time finished much further down. It was Simon Ammann who clinched his 2nd gold medal in Salt Lake City.
Tomomi is smiling again
Japan's charming speed skater who had not been in good shape this season broke the Japan record in the women's 500 meter's 1st trial to come in 7th. She was the fastest among the Japanese that day.

Shimizu misses the gold by .03 sec
In speedskating men's 500 meters, Hiroyasu Shimizu raced in the 17th group. As he turned the final curve in the inner lane, he slid a bit into the outer course. He clocked 34.69. At that point he was the leader adding the time from the previous day. He waited for Casey FitzRandolph to finish. FitzRandolph clocked a slower time of 34.81 but adding to his first try he clinched the crown from Shimizu by just .03 seconds. Shimizu showed disappointment for not being able to race faster and for "only" earning a silver. Still it was his 3rd Olympic medal and the 2nd Olympic to win a medal.
Honda excels in short program
2 time Olympian Takeshi Honda skated after Russia's Alexei Yagudin who gave a new perfect performance. And Honda was as good. He had successful jumps, finishing the day's short program 2nd.

Good start for Shimizu
Nagano gold medalist in the men's 500 m speedskating, Hiroyasu Shimizu had a good start. He finished 2nd in the 1st race with 34.61 sec. However, disappointment was that his all time rival Jeremy Wotherspoon collapsed as he glided forward to start his race.
In other sports, 17 year-old snowboarder Koji Nakai finished 5th in the men's halfpipe. But he and his coach expressed disappointment as they felt that they deserved a much higher score for Nakai's skills. They thought that he even deserved a medal. But the top 3 spots were all given to the Americans.

Disappointments in Japan's power sports
In Nordic combines individual competition, Japan's up and coming Takahashi Daito was the 6th to start in cross country. Former king of ski Kenji Ogiwara was 13th. Ogiwara tried to beat those before him. He could only improve his standing to 11th place. Takahashi finished behind him. It was a one-two finish for Finaland. In ski-jump normal hill, Noriaki Kasai fell during landing for his 2nd jump. Last Olympic silver medalist in the competition, Kazuyoshi Funaki was reported to be gradually getting back in shape, but finished only 9th. 4 time Olympian Masahiko Harada was 20th. But Harada after the match said he felt he was starting to jump better.
In women's speedskating 3000 meter race, Tabata Maki finished 6th. It was not a satisfactory performance for Tabata for she was not able to break her own record.

Satoya takes the bronze
In the freestyle skiing moguls women's event, previous Olympic champion Tae Satoya in the preliminary was 6th, but in the final round, she with a twister spread and triple twisters was given 24.85 to come in third. Another medal hope Aiko Uemura finished 6th, but she gave fine airs. The winner was Norway's Kari Traa who scored 25.94.
Michiyo's Note: Satoya was not in great shape after the Nagano Games. In fact she was reported to have lost motivation after taking the gold. So it is a great feat that she's been able to ski with great motivation and skill again at this Olympics. She said that the last Olympics she skied for her dad who passed away, but this time, she did it for herself.

Opening Ceremony
It was a thrilling moment for Japan to see its own country man to be selected to bear the Olympic flag with other renowned people on Feb 8's opener. Nagano Olympic ski jump 3 medal winning Kazuyoshi Funaki, along with Desmond Tutu, Steven Spielberg carried the flag to the pole, and watched it being hoisted.

Japanese delegation
The delegation to Salt Lake City was finalized on Jan 11. There will be 224 in all, including 112 atheletes. It's 89 less than the participants of the Nagano Games. The decreased is mainly due to the fact that Japan's ice hockey team did not qualify to the Games. The captain of the Japanese delegation is ski jumper Masahiko Harada. The flagbearer is speedskater Eriko Sanmiya.