TOKYO (AFP) – Hosting is doing wonders for athletes in Japan, without getting frustrated by having to compete in the orphaned amateur stages and tepid Olympic atmosphere due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
On the fifth day of competition in Tokyo 2020, Japan leads the medal table with a harvest of 13 titles. China trails him with 12, and the United States is in third place with 12.
Six of the Japanese consecrations were in judo, the sport that originated in the country.
But the homeowners also boast a pair of swimming conquests, a vibrant softball team victory against the United States and sweeping skaters in the sport’s athletic debut, most notably the victory of Momiji Nishiya, a girl of just 13.
Japan’s 13th gold medal came Wednesday night and was composed by another Japanese teenager, as Daiki Hashimoto took it upon himself to extend Japan’s supremacy in the men’s gymnastics singles competition.
Hashimoto grew up watching Kohei Uchimura win gold in the combined exercise event, first at London 2012 and then at Rio 2016.
Being the leader of the new batch of Japanese gymnasts in the face of Uchimura’s impending retirement doesn’t frighten 19-year-old Hashimoto.
It is a challenge that he welcomes with absolute enthusiasm.
With a thrilling performance on the crossbar during the last session, Hashimoto claimed his third consecutive title in the Japan Test, beating China’s Xiao Ruteng and Russia’s Nikita Nagorny.
Hashimoto’s 88,465 points total was four tenths ahead of Ruoteng, who was deducted three tenths when he forgot to salute the judges during the final class at Ariaki’s ward.
This was Hashimoto’s second performance to the limits of perfection in three days.
“I don’t feel any pressure or nervousness. I go out to enjoy the competition,” he said.
And he wasn’t the only Japanese player to shine on Wednesday, a day after Naomi Osaka – the star who lit the Olympic fire at the opening ceremony – was eliminated in the third round of the tennis tournament.
Yui Ohashi, a 25-year-old swimmer, has emerged as one of the greatest hosting characters in these games.
Ohashi was born in Hikone, a small town in the center of the country, and claims to be a double Olympic champion. After dedicating himself to the 400-meter medley on Sunday, he continued Wednesday with a win in the 200 medley. The first two great titles of his career could not have been better.
Someone asked him the question if he could be considered a national star. Politely, Ohashi rejected her.
He replied, “I don’t feel like a star.”
Baseball is one of Japan’s most popular sports and their Olympic gold medal is among the eyebrows that the professional league has halted its season to give room to the show and allow its best chips to be shared.
Japan is seeking its first gold medal in baseball as the sport returns to the program after its last staging in 2008.
Their first match in Tokyo 2020 almost ended in defeat when they entered the final half with a 3-1 loss to the Dominican Republic. But a bold hit and one song from Hayato Sakamoto completed the comeback for a 4-3 win over Fukushima.
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