Japanese sprinters Yuki Koike and Yoshihide Kiryu
Most of Japan’s finest athletes will be out in force for the Seiko Golden Grand Prix, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, in Tokyo, on Sunday (23).
The meeting, to be staged at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, was initially intended as a late spring preview for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but those plans were halted in their tracks with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Postponed at first from its original date, it’s now being held as a national event without spectators to align with restrictions on public gatherings. Nonetheless, it will still provide a strong competitive opportunity for Japanese athletes on the track that will host the Games next year.
World U20 3000m champion Nozomi Tanaka will be the focus of attention after her 8:41.35 performance in Fukagawa last month to break the national 3000m record. She will contest the 1500m on Sunday where she’s already improved to 4:08.68 this season, not too far from the national record of 4:07.86.
The men’s 100m features five of the fastest 11 Japanese men of all time. Asian champion Yoshihide Kiryu, the first Japanese athlete to break the 10-second barrier, has a 9.98 career best as does Yuki Koike, who clocked his at the Diamond League meeting in London Last year.
They'll be joined by Ryota Yamagata, who has clocked 10.00, and Shuhei Tada, who led off Japan's bronze-winning quartet at the past two World Championships. Kiryu and Koike (heats) were also on the 4x100m relay squad in Doha.
Aska Cambridge, a 4x100m relay Olympic silver medallist in Rio four years ago, will also be in the field.
The men’s 200m features Olympic 4x100m silver medallist Shota Iizuka and world 4x100m bronze medallist Kirara Shiraishi.
Sprint hurdlers Shunya Takayama and Asuka Terada will also be in action. Takayama twice equalled the Japanese 110m hurdles record of 13.36 last year before breaking it outright with 13.30 and then reducing it further to 13.25. Terada set two national records last year in the 100m hurdles, first with 13.00 and then with 12.97 two weeks later.
On the infield, the men’s long jump is building to be a competitive event, with Koki Fujihara, who broke the Japanese U20 record last year with 8.12m, taking on national record-holder Shoutarou Shiroyama and 2018 world U20 champion Yuki Hashioka.
Naoto Tobe, the World Indoor Tour winner in the high jump in 2019, heads the field in his event. Tobe, who improved to 2.35m indoors in 2019, will take on Takashi Eto, a 2.30m jumper. Daichi Sawano, Seito Yamamoto and Masaki Ejima, all 5.71m men last season, will compete in the pole vault.
National record-holder Haruka Kitaguchi leads the javelin throw field, joined by three other Japanese women who’ve thrown beyond 60 metres: 2018 national champion Marina Saito, 2011 Asian bronze medallist Yuka Sato and two-time Asian bronze medallist Risa Miyashita.
The men’s javelin is of a similar high standard with four 80-metre throwers entered: Asian bronze medallist Ryohei Arai, 2012 Olympic finalist Genki Dean, Takuto Kominami and Yuta Sakiyama.
Organisers will also provide some of Japan's finest high school athletes an opportunity to compete against their nation's best athletes on the Olympic Stadium track through a ‘Dream Lane’ set aside in nine men’s and nine women’s events.
The decision to include high school athletes came after the Interscholastic Sport Games, the annual national high school championships in 30 sports, were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A selection committee, which included 2000 Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi, 2008 Olympic 4x100m relay silver medallist Shinji Takahira and High Performance Committee Track & Field Director Kazuhiko Yamazaki, selected 28 athletes. Some of the athletes include Kosuke Kawata, who has a 10.39 best in the 100m and Haruto Ishizuka, a 3:44.62 1500m runner.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics