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Dai Tamesue wins a bronze medal in the 400mH

Dai Tamesue wins a bronze medal in the 400mH
K. Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
11 August 2001 - Edmonton - “I was just so happy to run in the final,” Dai Tamesue repeated several times after winning a bronze medal at the 400mH on Friday night here in Edmonton.  In the process he also set a national record of 47.89 seconds to become the first Japanese hurdler to dip under the magical 48 seconds barrier.  Fans and media were hoping for Tamesue to win a medal and set national record.  He accomplished both.  When asked which one he values more, medal or record, Tamesue answered without hesitation, “Of course, I am happier with my medal.”   The sport of track and field is all about competition, and a medal at the Worlds or Olympics is the best indicator of greatness.

Although several Japanese marathon runners have won medals in past editions of the Worlds and Koji Murofushi won a silver medal at the hammer throw a few days ago, Dai Tamesue became only the second Japanese athlete in the history of the World Championships to win a medal in a track event.  Because it was Masako Chiba who won a bronze at the women’s 10,000m in the 1997 World Championships in Athens, Tamesue is the first male track athlete (as opposed to road and field events) to win a medal at the Worlds.

On Tuesday August 7, in the first round of the 400mH, Dai Tamesue won his heat with 49.45 to advance to the semi-final.  A day later running from the lane four, Tamesue finished second to Felix Sanchez in the third semi to make the final.  In the process, Tamesue improved his personal best from 48.38, set in Lausanne earlier this year, to 48.10.  It was also a national record.  Tamesue explains:  “My goal at this championships was to make the final.  So I was concentrating on running a good first round and the semi-final (to make the final).  (Once I made the final) I was planning to enjoy every moment of it,” which he did.  Thursday was a rest day, and it was apparently a relaxing day for Tamesue. “I was enjoying a day with my teammate Shigo Suetsugu (200m semi-finalist here in Edmonton).  Later Mr.  (Nobuharu) Asahara (100m semi-finalist) took us to the Japanese restaurant in town.  Later on I went to the stadium and met with my parents.”

Explaining his psychological state on the day of the final, Tamesue said, “For all day Friday, since I woke up this morning, I was happy to be running the final.  Final placing in the final was secondary.”  In the mixed zone after the final and again at the medallist press conference, Tamesue repeatedly emphasized how happy he was just to be in the final.

Although his reaction time (0.222) was the slowest of the entire field, Tamesue started the race fast.  “I cannot remember anything about the race, but I was thinking a lot about my first step.  Perhaps I was too worried about the first step and that may be why my reaction time was slow.” 

Tamesue covered each of the intervals between the hurdle number two and the hurdle number five in less than four seconds.  By half way down the backstraight, Tamesue who was running lane three made up the stagger on Fabrizio Mori, the defending champion who was running lane four.   Tamesue went over the fifth hurdle in less than 21 seconds.  “I was thinking of starting out the race aggressively.  The race itself was very fast (Sanchez also blasted out of the blocks).  So the first half of the race was very fast.”  Around the final bend Tamesue stayed ahead of Mori, the defending champion.

Then coming into the home straight, Tamesue felt that he was in trouble.  “I was running out of gas by the eighth hurdle.  But I still felt great running in the home straight.  The spectators were making lot of noise also.  I did not even see the tenth hurdle.  I just hurdled it thinking this should be about right,” said Tamesue, which brought a laugh from the reporters surrounding him.   Although passed by fast-closing Mori, who challenged Sanchez for the gold medal, Tamesue held off Hadi Al-Somaily to win the bronze.

After the race Tamesue told reporters his assessment of the opposition in the final: “In the European GP this season I was ahead of (Felix) Sanchez on a few occasions, however, in back of my mind I was thinking about him.  I also knew that Hadi (Al-Somaily) will be running faster in the final.  That leaves five others runners ...  Thinking about it made me confused, but I did think about my oppositions a bit.  I have seen the stats of the past World Championships, and I knew that order to win a medal, I must run sub 48 seconds.”

At the post race interview Tamesue was the happiest man in the press conference tent.  “I was very happy up till the start of the race.  In fact, I was not even in competitor’s mode before the start; instead I was enjoying every minute of it.   Running the World Championships final was my dream; so I thought I should enjoy it.”   

“I don’t remember much about the race.  I was just thinking about running, and I did not think much about the details of the race,” Tamesue continued.

The news made a front page of the evening edition of the newspapers in Tokyo.  At mid-night Edmonton time, Akio Ishii, a track and field reporter for the prestigious Mainichi newspaper said, “I must finish the story for the morning edition of the paper.  I will be staying late today.  By the time I am done, it will be the time for the 50Km Walk!”