Japanese Athletes on Track for Tokyo Games

(ATR) Japanese track and field athletes are trying to remain focused on their competitive efforts amid the uncertain times.

(ATR) As Tokyo 2020 organizers collaborate to devise necessary countermeasures for next summer’s Games, Japanese track and field athletes are trying to remain focused on their competitive efforts.

Sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu and javelin thrower Ryohei Arai both won national titles last week boosting their confidence, in times of uncertainty, for what they aim to accomplish at the rescheduled Games.

"I would like to have confidence and expect myself to leave a great result at the Tokyo 2020 Games next year," said Kiryu, who won the 100m in 10.27 seconds. "If I leave a great result then I will probably feel a lot of emotions, but I would like to concentrate on leaving a great result first."

"The world is in a very difficult situation now, so I really hope the Tokyo 2020 Games will be held safely next year," said Arai, who won the javelin with a toss of 81.57m.

Kiryu, 24, a member of Japan’s Rio 2016 silver medal winning 4x100 team and Arai, 29, a six-time national champion who finished 11th at Rio 2016, both competed at Tokyo’s National Stadium in late August. The Seiko Golden Grand Prix meet was held without fans.

"This was the first time that I ran full speed at a serious competition at the National Stadium and it was a special experience," said Kiryu, who raced to a 100m victory in 10.14 seconds despite a slight headwind. "There were no spectators and it was silent, but running in the National Stadium is going to be a very good experience for the Tokyo 2020 Games next year.

"I'm sure if there are a lot of spectators in the big venue, it will be so fun and exciting," said the Japanese 100m specialist, who is currently ranked 15th in the world.

Both Arai and Kiryu assessed the pros and cons of the 80,000 maximum capacity, US $1.4 billion multi-purpose venue, which officially opened last December.

"The warm-up area of the National Stadium is small, so it is very inconvenient for me as a javelin thrower," said Arai, who finished second at the Grand Prix meet. "There are a lot of seats and it is sloping, so there is a feeling that athletes’ motivation will be highest if there are a lot of spectators."

Arai added that javelin throwers might not be affected by the wind due to the design of the venue.

"I got the impression that you won’t get obstructed by the wind at all," Arai told the Japan News. "You could probably say it’s easier to compete here, but it could actually be a disadvantage because you often get helped by the wind in the javelin throw."

Kiryu said the new state-of-the-art stadium is unlike any other in Japan.

"As one of the concepts of the National Stadium, the seats make it seem like there are a lot of spectators even if there are no spectators," Kiryu tells Around the Rings.

"Foreign stadiums have spaces for people with disabilities and in wheelchairs, but Japanese stadiums don’t have this so much. The National Stadium has many spaces for people with disabilities to watch us compete, so this is very good."

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe is planning to make a visit to the stadium and inspect the track on Thursday during a trip that will also include a meeting with Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori. World Athletics chief executive officer Jon Ridgeon and director of competition Jakob Larsen should be accompanying Coe.

As Kiryu and Arai envision what the energy and atmosphere might be like performing in a stadium filled with spectators next year, IOC president Thomas Bach addressed the fluid situation and future decisions as the question arose at an IOC news conference on Wednesday.

"We are 10 months away from the Games so you cannot have any expectations right now or any measures being taken, lifted, or restrictions at this moment in time," Bach said. "What we see is that this working group on the Covid countermeasures in Japan is doing excellent work the Japanese way, very well-structured and diligent, addressing all the details and we have great confidence.

"I think we will have a better overview in December, when we get an interim report with a toolbox that is pretty full and then we can draw on this toolbox to take decisions when the timing is right."

Written by Brian Pinelli with reporting from Hironori Hashimoto in Tokyo

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