Tag Archives: Japan

Track Beauty of the Week: Ayako Kimura 木村 文子

Ayako Kimura 木村 文子 is this week’s Track Beauty!

Kimura is an elite-level Japanese hurdler. She has a personal best of 13.04s in the 100m hurdles, set in April 2012. Ayako was just four-hundredths of a second from Yvonne Kanazawa’s 金沢 イボンヌ 12-year old national senior record and one-hundredth of a second faster than Asuka Terada’s 寺田 明日香 career best performance in 2009.

Click this link to read the full article…

Takayuki Kishimoto’s (岸本 鷹幸) Olympic Hopes

Japan has a strong intermediate hurdling tradition. Back in the 2001 and 2005 editions of the World Championships, Dai Tamesue 為末大 won bronze medals in the grueling event. Tamesue is the only other modern-day Asian hurdler aside from Liu Xiang 刘翔 who had won medals in the World Championships.

Read: “Dai Tamesue’s 為末大 Double Bronze”

In the Olympic Games, athletes from the vast Asian continent had barged into the top three twice – when Filipino Miguel White won bronze at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Saudi Hadi Soua’an Al-Somaily هادي صوعان الصميلي snared silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Read: “Asian Sprinting – Japan’s Olympic Bronze”

While going over the 2012 top lists of the 400m hurdles, I noticed a Japanese athlete perched at the top 10. Takayuki Kishimoto 岸本 鷹幸 ran a competitive 48.41s last June, en route to topping the Japanese Olympic Trials.

This season, only double World Championship medalist Javier Culson (47.78s), reigning World Champion Dai Greene (47.84s), 2005 World Champion Bershawn Jackson (48.20s), and U.S. Trials winner Michael Tinsley (48.33s) have run faster.  With The Batman out of the U.S. Olympic Team, an Asian athlete is seeded fourth coming into the London Olympics.  On paper, at least, Asia has a legitimate contender for an Olympic 400m hurdles medal.

The 1.71m-tall hurdler was able to shave off a massive 0.86s off his personal best in a span of a little over a year, propelling himself to fifth in the Japanese all-time list. And he is still only 22 years old. Amongst the top 10 in the world this season, only Jehue Gordon is younger than the Kishimoto.

The Japanese athlete reached the semifinals in Daegu last year, albeit with an apparent hamstring injury. Compared to the likes of the other top contenders, Kishimoto’s curriculum vitae seems relatively scant. But then again, the Olympics bring out the best in people. Perhaps the young Kishimoto is destined to emulate – or even better – the legendary Tamesue’s world-beating feats.

Dai Tamesue’s 為末大 Double Bronze

East Asians aren’t known for their prowess in athletics. Hence, the handful of medals that our Japanese neighbors had won in the years past hold much value. I admire Japanese track & field athletes the most because of the raw emotion that they exude. This exemplifies the very essence of sport.

Dai Tamesue 為末大 is one such athlete. As a talented 22-year old, Tamesue crashed out of the heats in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. He clipped the penultimate hurdle in the grueling 400m low hurdles. Nevertheless, he managed to finish the race in 1:01.81, much slower than his then personal best of 48.47s.

Tamesue bounced back in sterling fashion the next year at the 2001 Edmonton World Championships. He ran a gutsy race, storming to the lead early on. As the hurdlers came into the final bend, the diminutive Japanese man was the surprise leader. However the American-born Dominican Felix Sanchez and the Italian Fabrizio Mori overtook Tamesue in the final 80m.

After the disappointment in Sydney, Tamesue shed tears of joy at his bronze medal. The Japanese shaved off more than half-a-second from his erstwhile personal best, stopping the clock at 47.89s.

In the next couple of years, Tamesue failed to replicate his winning form. He didn’t go beyond the semi-finals of the 2003 Paris World Championships and the 2004 Athens Olympics. At the 2005 Helsinki World Championships, the then 28-year old Tamesue (48.10s) again struck bronze with much drama. As he shook off the effects of lactic acid after his characteristically gutsy all-out racing style, he overtook the rapidly decelerating Kerron Clement (48.18s).

Four long years after his Edmonton triumph, Tamesue once again reached the podium of a major championship.

By the time the Japan hosted its own edition of the World Championships in 2007, Tamesue was but a shadow of his old self. Approaching 30-years old, the veteran could only manage to place 6th (49.67s) in his heat.

A bronze medal in the World Championships might not count for much in terms of relative athletics greatness. But can greatness be holistically defined by medals alone? Derek Redmond became immortalized as he dramatically limped to the finish line assisted by his dad. Tamesue, albeit in a far lesser dramatic scale, is worthy of his own Celebrate Humanity moment.

Some athletes grumble at winning less than gold. If some people say that you don’t win silver, you lose the gold, what more can you say for a bronze medal? But for Tamesue, his two bronze medals exemplify the hopes of an entire nation. Tamesue, by the way he sunk to the ground in disbelief and raised his arms in triumph afterwards, is every inch the winner.

“The Medals of Eternal Friendship” by Joboy Quintos

Back in college, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read and re-read the heartwarming story of Sueo Oe 大江 季雄 and Shuhei Nishida 西田 修平. Oe and Nishida were world-class Japanese pole vaulters who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Earle Meadows of the United States won gold with a 4.35m vault. The two Japanese cleared identical heights of 4.25m.

The following clip from Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia provides a dramatic glimpse to the competition.

Fiber glass poles, soft landing mats and six meter vaults were but figments of the wildest imagination back in 1936. Vaulters clear with a straight pole and land feet first on saw dust – a testament to their uncanny athleticism and resolve.

These were days before the modern concept a fixed number of attempts, with ties being decided on countbacks. Meadows was the clear winner. Nishida and Oe, according to an article from the Waseda Weekly, “competed fiercely over five hours under night lighting.” The judges called an end to the competition by 9:00 PM, “telling the Japanese teams to determine among themselves who would be given second place.” Nishida won silver since he cleared 4.25m in his first try, Oe was awarded bronze since he vaulted over the same height with his second try.

Read: “Bonds of Friendship Tied Rivals- Waseda and Keio”

Click the screenshot above to view the Waseda University article on Nishida and Oe

The two vaulters were very good friends. When they arrived in Japan, they went to a jeweler and had the two medals cut in half. Both Nishida and Oe had equal halves of bronze and silver, aptly called the Medals of Eternal Friendship.

An Olympic Gold medal from the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Photo from Peter Kraus, B.H. Mayer’s IdentitySign GmbH and Wikimedia Commons)

Click this link for a photo of Nishida’s medal (from blog.livedoor.jp)

In this day and age where larger-than-life egos are a dime a dozen in professional sports, such displays of true sportsmanship are a rarity.

I first read about the famous Medal in my sophomore year. Back then, I was stuck in the doldrums. Despite the best of my efforts, I missed out on a finals appearance in UAAP 67, finishing a dismal 9th  (16.67s) in qualifying despite shaving off eight-hundredths of a second from my erstwhile PB. I trained quite hard that season and, needless to say, I felt crushed.

Hence, I turned to the exploits of past Olympic champions for solace. I found comfort in their feats of strength – in the case of Nishida and Oe, their friendship. Seven years since that day, I still get goosebumps each time I read about the Medal of Eternal Friendship. Now that I’m back on track, albeit alone, Olympic moments such as these have taken a new, deeper meaning.

P.S.

My wildest dream is to compete in the Olympics. I’m light years away from the “B'” standard, but it doesn’t hurt to think about lofty heights once in a while. As they say, reach for the stars and you’ll reach the moon. In that case, I’ll be just as happy with a Southeast Asian Games qualification!

Article by Joboy Quintos

Sources:

Waseda Weekly

Photo from Peter Kraus, B.H. Mayer’s IdentitySign GmbH/Wikimedia Commons, licensed under “Creative Commons Namensnennung-Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen Deutschland”

 

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