Koji Murofushi after spinning to victory in Athens (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Athens, Greece

Murofushi: on the road from Athens to Osaka - IAAF World Cup in Athletics

The Japanese hammer thrower Koji Murofushi has been undefeated for more than three years and the 2004 Olympic champion extended his impressive run with a comfortable win at the IAAF World Cup in Athletics with a throw of 82.01m to put more than two metres between himself and Belarus’ reigning World and European champion Ivan Tikhon.
It is s a streak that Murofushi is hoping he can continue all the way to the IAAF World Championships on home soil in Osaka next summer, when he will carry the hopes of a nation on his broad shoulders.
“There is pressure on me from the Japanese public and athletics fans but that’s OK. I like to throw under pressure. From a Japanese perspective, it’s not just a question of gold medals or any particular medal. In Japan, it is very important how you compete and how you act as well, so I want to do my best in every respect when the World Championships come around,” commented Murofushi, who is one of his country’s best known and respected sportsmen.
Of course, Japan athletics fans are traditionally fanatical about long distance running, especially the marathon. It will come as no surprise athletics aficionados that the country’s three gold medals in World Championships history have all come in that classic 42km event.
Murofushi, after silver at the 2001 World Championships and a bronze four years ago in 2003 – he did not compete in Helsinki last year due to back problems – is keen to complete his set in front of his home fans and provide a bit of variety to the Japanese list of champions but he also knows where many Japanese affections really lie.
Citizen Koji
“I am popular in Japan but maybe I would be even more popular if I ran the marathon. But I am sorry to tell you that is unlikely to happen. I could maybe manage two kilometres, the last two,” joked the affable Murofushi.
He can afford to smile now that the aforementioned bad times of last season are now, literally and metaphorically, behind him.
His throw of 82.01m at the World Cup was his best since his golden summer of two years ago and, to emphasis that the mark was no fluke, he also had two other throws over 81 metres in the four-round contest.
“I was happy with the competition although technically I had a little bit of a bad release with my final throw. But I was motivated because Athens is a favourite city. After all I was made an honorary citizen after my Olympic gold medal.
“I was training just solidly for five weeks from the end of July until two weeks ago. A lot of my rivals had the European Championships and I didn’t have any competition during this time. It was a little bit tough to have a blank diary during this period and then to come back to the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart last weekend, but that showed everything was OK.
Back to the future
“I had back problems last year but now I do less lifting of heavy weights and I have changed my technique slightly in the last 18 months. My centre of gravity is lower in the circle and I have not had quite the same problems. Things are slowly getting better. I now do more work on my legs in training and slightly less on my upper body.
“After 30, you are getting older and you have to start taking care of your body!” added Murofushi, who celebrates his 32nd birthday in exactly three weeks time on 8 October.
The question now is, now that things seem to be clicking for Murofushi, can he get close to his Asian record of 84.86m before the season comes to a close. 
His record has stood since 29 June 2003 when he produced his massive mark in the Czech capital Prague and he is currently fifth on the men’s Hammer Throw all-time list.
“I have one more meet next week in Yokohama so, of course, I want do even better in front of Japanese crowd. You never know how you are going to do but I hope to challenge my self and throw as far as I can,” added Murofushi, saying sayonara with the traditional bow before departing.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF

Click here to read Reports of ALL (20) Events contested today in Athens at the 10th IAAF World Cup in Athletics