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Sunday, July 1, 2012

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK

Japan's medal count in London hard to forecast


Staff writer

In its past 11 Summer Olympic appearances, dating back to the 1964 Tokyo Games, Japan has collected 275 medals.

Here's the overall breakdown: 99 gold, 74 silver and 97 bronze.

It averages out to a little less than 25 medals per Olympics and nine first-place medals. This does not include the 1980 Moscow Games, when Japan, like the United States, boycotted the Olympics after the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

During that span, Japan collected a high of 37 medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, including 16 of the gold variety, which matched the winning haul from the Tokyo Olympics. Twice in that time frame, Japan had to settle for 14 total medals (1988 Seoul Games and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics).

Japan collected 25 medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, reaching that exact total for the third time — equaling its mark from the 1968 Mexico City Games and the 1976 Montreal Olympics. In Beijing, Japan placed eighth overall on the medals chart.

To reach its goal of placing in the top five in London, the Japanese Olympic Committee has stated in published reports that Japan will need to win at least15 gold medals.

A few factors could hamper Japan's chances of reaching the JOC's goal:

*Baseball and softball sports are no longer part of the Olympics.

*Highly decorated judoka Ryoko Tani, a two-time gold medalist, now spends her time as a politician instead of in pursuit of more medals.

*Twelve of Japan's 14 judoka are first-time Olympians. (The Associated Press, however, predicts Japan will haul in eight judo golds — five by women, three by men).

*Japan does not appear to have a proven women's marathon medal contender in the mix, someone like gold medalists Naoko Takahashi or Mizuki Noguchi.

On the other hand, Nadeshiko Japan captured the Women's World Cup title last year, and the London Olympics squad will feature the same nucleus of players.

Can Japan pull off multiple victories in swimming, men's gymnastics, judo and women's wrestling?

That should be one of the recurring narratives from London.

And remember this: Those four sports are areas of strength for Japan, and the women's volleyball team is coming off a fifth-place finish in Beijing.

The British Olympic Association has predicted that Japan will place eighth in Olympic medals, including 11 gold.

Predictions, of course, can make for interesting conversation, but they still remain just that — a guessing game.

So, can Japan reach or come close to the JOC's target?

Can a superb showing in London create widespread enthusiasm for Tokyo's 2020 Olympic bid?

That's exactly what organizers want.

But if Japan falls miserably short of its medal target, will that have a profound negative impact on Tokyo's 2020 bid?

The action in London will provide some answers.

Major media coverage: It's no surprise that the Japan women's marathon team's training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, which ends on Sunday, attracted a large throng of journalists.

"(There's) more media than I have ever seen for any training camp in the 15 years I've been doing this," said Sean Anthony, of HYPO2 Sports Management, who coordinates Olympic training camps in the mountain town.

In Arizona, Japan's print media included the Asahi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun. Broadcast coverage has come from NHK, Fuji TV, Kansai TV, Okayama Broadcasting (OHK), and Okayama's RSK Sanyo Broadcasting Company.

Miscellany: Lopez Lomong, the U.S. flag-bearer at the Beijing Games' Opening Ceremony, has written a book, "Running for My Life," that will be released in mid-July. The 1,500-meter runner was born in war-ravaged Sudan, fled the violence, lived in a Kenyan refugee camp for years before getting an opportunity to attend high school in New York. He then went to Northern Arizona University, where his running skills and extraordinary life created a media blitz.

Now, he returns to the spotlight.

"I'm going out there with USA on my chest to bring the world down," Lomong told The Associated Press in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday after qualifying to represent the United States in the 1,500. ...

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade's decision to undergo surgery on his left knee this summer means he won't play for Team USA in London.

Quotable:"The games present an attractive target for our enemies. But the games are not an easy target, and the fact that we have disrupted multiple terrorist plots here and abroad in recent years demonstrates that the U.K. as a whole is not an easy target for terrorism." — Jonathan Evans, MI5 spy agency chief was quoted as saying in a recent AP article

Surfing the web: Twitter is a forum for countless facts, as well as fiction and opinions about the Olympics each day.

Here are a few samples:

"To ask David Beckham to give everything to winning the Olympics for London and then not picking him to take part is so disrespectful," was an example of one tweet.

"David Beckham is going to the Olympics ... as a spectator," Time.com wrote.

"There's taxi hotels in London (during the Olympics) called 'Relax-A-Taxi' where you can sleep inside a taxi that's designed as a room," another stated.

Coming soon: Masato Mizuno, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee, spoke to the Foreign Sportswriters Association of Japan on Wednesday. Look for an in-depth report of Mizuno's perspectives on the 2020 bid in the near future in The Japan Times.

In one press release issued by Tokyo 2020 in the spring, Mizuno's enthusiasm for the Olympic movement — and swimming — was clearly evident.

"Our swimmers are motivating young people across the world, not only in Japan, by demonstrating how dedication and perseverance can make dreams come true," Mizuno said. "The Tokyo 2020 Games will be fueled by the energy of young people and will celebrate the Olympic movement's values of friendship, excellence and respect, which represent a way of life in Japan."



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