Tokyo Olympics: Osaka, Matsuyama and the Japan gold medal hopefuls

By Sports Desk July 01, 2021

The delay to the Tokyo Olympics has been a source of frustration for countless athletes, but perhaps none more so than the Japanese stars so desperate to succeed in their home nation.

Uncertainty and confusion surrounding the Games has sadly reigned for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And yet, here we are in the month the action is set to begin and the show looks certain to go on.

No international spectators will be in attendance, but limited numbers of domestic fans are due to be allowed to watch the action.

So, who are the biggest names representing Japan the locals will hope to inspire to glory? Stats Perform has taken a look…

NAOMI OSAKA

There is no other place to begin than with one of the biggest names in the whole of sport, let alone tennis right now. Naomi Osaka is a superstar with a huge global following, particularly in Japan and America. Only 23 and with four grand slams to her name, there is seemingly no limit to the level she can reach. Osaka is the defending US and Australian Open champion, but withdrew after the first round of the French Open and opted not to play at Wimbledon after revealing a long-endured battle with depression. The issue came to the fore when Osaka had announced she would not take part in media conferences in Paris to protect her mental health, starting a wider conversation over how athletes are treated. 

 

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

So often a nearly man, 2021 has already been a breakthrough year for the gifted Hideki Matsuyama. There were seven top-10 finishes in major tournaments before finally the 29-year-old took top billing to win the Masters at Augusta back in April. In doing so he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament (Hinako Shibuno and Chako Higuchi have both won majors in the women's game). Olympic gold is certainly not out of the question for one of the most gifted players in golf.

KIYUNA RYO

Karate is making its Olympics debut and so is one of its greatest ever competitors in the form of Kiyuna Ryo. In 2019, Ryo won every competition he entered - including a third Asian championship - while the pandemic denied him a shot at a record fourth straight WKF world championship in June 2020. It will take a huge effort to stop Ryo, who will be 31 by the time the Games begin, standing atop the podium.

UTA ABE

The younger sibling of two-time world champion Hifumi Abe – himself off to Tokyo 2020 – judoka Uta Abe represents a serious medal hope for Japan. A two-time world champion herself in the -52kg category, she will aim to become an Olympic champion on July 25 – the same day her brother will aim to wear gold in the men's -66kg category. There is no shortage of judo talent in Japan, with Shohei Ono aiming to defend the -73kg gold he won at Rio 2016.

KENTO MOMOTA 

The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone but especially for Kento Momota. In January 2020, the badminton star was involved in a road accident that claimed the life of his driver, while he required surgery on his eye socket. A combination of the injury, the global pandemic and a positive test for coronavirus kept Momota off the court for 14 months. But the two-time world champion – who won an astounding 11 titles as recently as 2019 – will be desperate to complete a fairytale ending with gold in Tokyo.

 

DAIYA SETO

One of Japan's greatest hopes in the pool, Daiya Seto already has an Olympic medal in the form of a bronze from Rio four years ago in the 400 metre individual medley. With four gold medals in long course world championships and as many at the Asian Games, there are plenty of high hopes for Seto.

Related items

  • Inter coach Inzaghi tests positive for COVID-19 Inter coach Inzaghi tests positive for COVID-19

    Inter coach Simone Inzaghi has tested positive for coronavirus.

    The Serie A champions confirmed the 45-year-old returned a positive test on Monday following routine testing.

    In a brief statement, Inter informed supporters that Inzaghi "will now follow the protocols set out in the healthcare guidelines".

    Nevertheless, the news is not expected to result in major disruption for the club given they are not to be in action again until February 5, when they host neighbours Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.

    Under Italian Football Federation (FIGC) guidelines, players and staff only need to isolate for three days if they are showing no symptoms.

    Similarly, any players deemed to be a close contact of Inzaghi's will still be able to train as long as they have not tested positive for the virus.

    Measures were introduced at the start of the month that meant players, staff and fans had to have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine to be allowed into stadiums.

    However, even before that rule was brought in, Serie A was reported to have had as many as 98 per cent of players already double vaccinated.

  • 'It’s in our blood to overcome adversity' - Fenlator-Victorian believes battling bobsled teams typify Jamaica spirit 'It’s in our blood to overcome adversity' - Fenlator-Victorian believes battling bobsled teams typify Jamaica spirit
  • Parchment, Thompson-Herah named Jamaica's Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year for 2021 Parchment, Thompson-Herah named Jamaica's Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year for 2021

    Sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah and sprint hurdler, Hansle Parchment, were named Jamaica’s National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year for 2021, at the RJRGleaner Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards ceremony held on Friday night.

    The event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Thompson-Herah had a phenomenal 2021 season, which included her winning the 100m at the Diamond League final in Zurich and running 10.54 at the Eugene Diamond League to become the fastest woman alive and second fastest woman of all time.

    Her greatest achievement in 2021, however, would have to be when she became the first woman in history to win the sprint double at consecutive Olympic Games.

    Backing up her exploits from Rio in 2016, Thompson-Herah produced times of 10.61 and 21.53 to win gold medals in both the 100m and 200m at the Tokyo Olympics, in addition to being a part of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team, alongside Briana Williams, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who finished as runner-up for the Sportswoman of the Year award, and Shericka Jackson, that won the gold medal in a national record 41.02.

    Parchment shocked the world to win gold in the Men’s 110m Hurdles in Tokyo, nine years after his bronze medal performance at the London Olympics.

    He ran 13.04 to win gold in Tokyo ahead of prohibitive favourite Grant Holloway of the USA.

    The past student of Morant Bay High and Kingston College was also third at the Diamond League final in Zurich.

    His teammate Ronald Levy, who was the runner-up for the Sportsman of the Year Award, took home the bronze medal in Tokyo.

    Other major awards given out on the day include the Chairman's Award to veteran journalist Lance Whittaker; the People's Choice "Performance of the Year Award" to Fraser McConnell; the VM Group Y.O.U.T.H Award to sprinter Tina Clayton and the Gleaner Newspaper Iconic Award to Michael Holding.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.