October 16, 2019
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Japanese athletes gear up gold 14 months before Olympics

 The logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is seen through cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan, April 6, 2018. EPA-EEF FILE/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

The logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is seen through cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan, April 6, 2018. EPA-EEF FILE/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

By Nora Olivé

Tokyo, May 24 (efe-epa).- With 14 months to go before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japanese athletes are gearing up to represent their host country and win as many medals as possible.

Japanese tennis pro Naomi Osaka described what it means to represent her country at the Olympic Games on home soil, during a recent interview with the International Tennis Federation.

The world number one will be among a number of athletes who will try to achieve Japan’s objective of 30 gold medals, which the local organizing committee set when Tokyo was chosen to host the Olympics.

Japan is the cradle of sports such as judo and karate, the country has also set its sight on several other sports, including newly included ones on the Olympic program.

Tokyo last hosted the games in 1964, when Japan came third in the medal table with 16 golds, the highest tally it has ever reached.

Although the nation only won 12 golds during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Japanese athletes also grabbed a record of 41 medals in total to bring the Asian county’s overall tally to 439 since its Olympic debut in Stockholm 1912.

Throughout Olympic history, judo has been Japan’s favorite sport, with 39 gold medals, followed by wrestling and gymnastics with 32 and 31 respectively.

Traditionally, Japanese athletes have achieved good results in these three disciplines, as well as swimming, badminton, table tennis, equestrianism, weightlifting and fencing.

Japan is expected to repeat these successes next year and several stars have been gaining victories as they tune up for the Tokyo games, including wrestler Kaori Icho, gymnast Kohei Uchimura and swimmer Kosuke Hagino.

The Olympic program, which will see the return of some sports and the debut of others, has inspired Japan to aim for victories in sports such as surfing, golf, softball and baseball.

Japanese women’s softball team is considered top in the world and has been tipped to win the Olympics following success in Beijing 2008 and this year’s edition of the Asian Cup.

The national baseball team is also ranked number one in the world, but Japan is yet to win a baseball gold medal, a feat that Cuba, the United States and South Korea have achieved.

Climbing is set to make its Olympics debut in Tokyo and Japan has several experts, including Akiyo Noguchi.

Snowboarder Ayumi Hirano is expected to take part in Tokyo 2020, when a skateboarding Olympic competition is also set to be held for the first time.

Surfer Kanoa Igarashi, who seeks to be among 20 athletes who will compete at the Olympics, said in an interview that he is looking forward to taking part in the event and will do his best to win gold.

Japanese fans will also pay attention to tennis, where Osaka and Kei Nishikori will represent the country.

Japan's women’s soccer team is also aiming for medals on home turf, having won the Asian Cup and is expected to make the semifinal of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.

The Tokyo 2020 committee has said it expects Japan's success in the 2018 Asian Games, where it came second in the medal table, to continue when it hosts the Olympics. EFE

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