July 20 (Reuters) – Japanese athletes watching at their country’s Olympics.
KOHEI UCHIMURA, GYMNASTICS
Uchimura qualified for his fourth and final Games in a tiebreaker and is set to end his illustrious Olympic career in his native Japan.
Sometimes referred to as âKing Kohei,â Uchimura became the first male gymnast in 44 years to win back-to-back Olympic titles at the 2016 Games, leading Japan to gold in the team event.
RIKAKO IKEE, SWIMMING
Just being a part of Japan’s Olympic team at a home Games after surviving leukemia can already be a victory for Rikako Ikee.
The swim star will be one of the pool favorites this summer.
She celebrated her 21st birthday in July as she and her teammates broke the national record in the women’s 200-meter relay.
After winning six gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games and four titles at the Japan National Championship in April, Ikee is expected to roar through the 400-meter freestyle relay and 4×100 medley relay at the Tokyo Games.
NAOMI OSAKA, TENNIS
Quadruple Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka is widely regarded as a favorite for gold as she makes her Olympic debut in her Games at home and on her favorite hard court.
Osaka, who was named Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year 2021, has been praised for using her platform to raise awareness about issues such as police violence, racial injustice and mental health.
KENTO MOMOTA, BADMINTON
All eyes will be on the world number one in men’s singles, who overcame personal and professional challenges on his way to the Tokyo Olympics, including contracting COVID-19.
Months before the Rio Games in 2016, Momota was embroiled in an illegal gambling scandal that led to his suspension by the Nippon Badminton Association. He was also removed from the world rankings. Momota returned to the field in 2017 at the rank of 282nd and recovered her way with a 39-game unbeaten streak.
Momota’s Olympic dreams were threatened again in early 2020 when he was involved in a fatal car crash. But the pandemic gave him time to recover and he made his return to the All-England Open in March, giving the Japanese hope he can fight for Olympic gold.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA, GOLF
The top-ranked Japanese golfer, Matsuyama was already widely regarded as a favorite for men’s golf competition in Tokyo even before his Masters triumph in April made him the first Japanese golfer to win a men’s major championship.
Matsuyama will be in familiar surroundings when he makes his Olympic Games debut as the Kasumigaseki Country Club which hosts the golf competition. It was the site of one of his previous big wins, the 2010 Asian Amateur Championship.
MEN’S 4×100 METERS RELAY TEAM
Japan’s men’s 4×100-meter relay team surprised the world with a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics. They defeated the United States and Canada.
Rather than speed, their smooth handover was touted as a recipe for their silver lining.
Sprinter Ryota Yamagata, who was part of the relay team in Rio, will compete in the relay again this summer at his third Olympics. Yamagata is also the Japan team captain at the Tokyo Games.
Ju-min Park Report
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