45 men and 36 women were selected to represent the host nation Japan at the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan (25 Aug to 2 Sep). The team is the strongest Japanese squad in the history of the World Championships, with the number of potential medalists higher than ever. Furthermore those potential medalists are distributed among many events. The Japanese could win medals in throwing and jumping events as well as the Marathon, traditionally the strongest event for Japan.
Koji Murofushi, the 2004 Olympic Champion in the men’s Hammer Throw, has the best chance for a medal. In fact since he already won a silver medal in 2001 and bronze medal in 2003, by winning a gold medal, Murofushi could complete a medal set, a first in the men’s event. Even if the medal is not gold, a third medal for Murofushi would be a record high for Japan. Second member of the team who has a chance for a third medal is Dai Tamesue, who already has two bronze medals, from 2001 and 2005. In his event, the 400m Hurdles, Tamesue is not the only athlete who has a realistic chance for a medal. Kenji Narisako, the reigning Asian Games champion, also has a chance for a medal in intermediate hurdles.
Two jumpers – Daichi Sawano, a pole vaulter, and Kumiko Ikeda, a long jumper - stand out on the team. Both athletes are national record holders, and if they jump close to their personal best range, they have a realistic chance for a medal. This year Sawano (a.k.a. Air Daichi) twice defeated American Brad Walker, the reigning silver medallist. Ikeda has her sights set on a seven metre leap. If successful, she can win a medal.
The best among the men’s Marathon team are Toshinari Suwa, sixth in the Athens Olympics, and Tsuyoshi Ogata, third in the 2005 World Championships. Satoshi Osaki is from Osaka, and thus might receive largest applause from the large number of spectators who will line the streets of Osaka on Saturday morning (25).
The best among the women’s marathon team are Reiko Tosa, silver medalist at the 2001 World Championships and Yumiko Hara, sixth in the 2005 World Championships.
Finally, expectation is high for the men’s relay team. The men’s 4x100m relay team has made the final in the last three World Championships, and finished as high as fourth in 2001.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF