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Friday, Nov. 19, 2004

JOC's Takeda aiming for more gold

Staff writer

The man who directed Japan to its highly successful performance at the Olympics in Athens this summer says the results were no stroke of luck, but rather the return on the investment of years of strategic planning by the Japan Olympic Committee.

News photo
JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda speaks at a meeting of the Foreign Sportswriters Association of Japan on Oct. 28 in Tokyo.

Speaking before the Foreign Sportswriters of Japan in Tokyo recently, JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda detailed just how the group set upon returning the nation to the glory of Olympics past.

"We had been in a steady decline in the medals table since our peak at the 1964 Tokyo Games (16 gold medals, 29 overall medals).

"In Sydney, we won only five golds and 18 overall medals. This reflected a 1.75 percent medal rate from all of our athletes who participated, which was our worst performance ever.

"In 2001, we launched the JOC Gold Plan which was to try and double the number of gold medals we won (in Sydney) within 10 years and have a 3.75 percent medal yield. However, we have already surpassed this goal with our performance in Athens (16 golds, 37 overall) where we had a 3.98 percent medal yield."

Even more encouraging in Takeda's eyes was the fact that Japan won golds in several different sports in Athens, after all of the golds in Sydney -- with the exception of one -- came in judo.

"The JOC Gold Plan was established to inspire all of the various sports to have a better exchange of information and develop an advisory system for coaching. We feel the results have been promising.

"The same year (2001) we also established the National Sports Science Center in Tokyo. This is a research center, not a training center.

However, because we don't have a training center, it has had to double as both.

"This is a first-rate sports science center, by world standards, and helped support many of our athletes who competed in Athens."

Takeda also credits the Japanese government for stepping up and having an impact in a most important area -- finance.

"The government came through for us with funding for the Japan Revival Project, which helped pay for overseas training for many of our athletes. This contribution was vital to assist us in achieving our goals."

Takeda, who became the youngest JOC president ever when he was elected to the post in 2001 at 55, says that now that Japan has risen back to prominence on the international stage, the next task is maintaining its standing.

"I was very pleased with the effort of our team, as we rose from 15th in the medals list in Sydney to fifth in Athens. Our results better reflected the economic power and population of Japan with the other nations competing. Our great challenge for the next Olympics is how to sustain this level of success.

"Our next big project will be to build a national training center. Since the 1970s, all of the countries that have done well at the international level have had national training centers. Only Japan, of the top 10 nations, does not have its own center.

"The plan is to have gymnasiums available for all the respective sports and facilities which are open to the athletes 24 hours a day for training."

Takeda, a two-time Olympian (Munich -- 1972; Montreal -- 1976) as an equestrian, has been lauded for his organizational skill and reinvigorating the Olympic movement in Japan with his enthusiasm.

He knows that in the world of Olympic sport, you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same. And his thinking reflects this.

"We are now going about trying to identify the path by which we can best develop talent in the future generations. Also, we will establish a coaching academy to assist the next generation of coaches."

Takeda noted that Japan's sudden rise in performance in Athens raised a few eyebrows.

"Many IOC members and athletes were asking why Japan was so much stronger and winning so many medals. They wondered if we were eating something special or drinking something special in our preparations for the Games. But we have always played fairly by the rules."

Takeda recounted some of his personal observations from Athens in a wide-ranging discussion on Oct. 28.

"Of course expectations were high for (swimmer) Kosuke Kitajima and he delivered. The win by (swimmer) Ai Shibata was quite surprising.

Personally, I found the victory by the Japanese men's gymnastics team in the all-around competition the most exciting.

"The triumph by Mizuki Noguchi in the marathon was impressive as the heat made conditions very difficult on that day. Considering all of the attention the omission of Naoko Takahashi got, it was a clutch performance."

Takeda also commented on several other issues of note.

102 Future bids by Japan to host the Summer Olympics:

"Unfortunately, Osaka lost its bid for the 2008 Games, however, there are other cities in Japan that are interested in making an Olympic bid in the future.

"At this point, it is probably getting late to even try for 2016, so I would say that our best chance at hosting a future Summer Games would be in 2020.

"To make a bid for 2016, we would have to have a city selected and all preparations ready by 2006 or 2007. The bid would be submitted in 2009 and the host city chosen later that year."

102 The resignation of Honorary JOC Chairman Yoshiaki Tsutsumi:

"The departure of Mr. Tsutsumi will not have a significant impact on the JOC, even though he was an IOC executive committee member. However, I think the Japan Ice Hockey Federation (which Tsutsumi headed and also resigned from) is facing a big problem."

102 On the disappointing third-place finish of Japan's baseball team:

"The team of professionals only had a few days to practice together. I think it would be wise to recruit some top amateur players (who could train together) to go along with the pros next time. But this is something the Japan Baseball Federation must decide."

102 On the doping controversy in the men's hammer competition:

"We made an inquiry, not a protest, shortly after the hammer competition had concluded. The IOC takes the doping issue very seriously and responded very quickly, for which we are extremely grateful. Koji Murofushi was declared the winner before he left Athens to return to Japan."

102 On how Japanese athletes have avoided doping scandals:

"We have fully supported anti-doping efforts through the years. I can't believe that a Japanese athlete, who has trained hard for many years, would risk throwing away some of those prime years by doping. I think most of the Japanese athletes have this mind set.

"We are more worried about there being inadvertent instances (of positive drug tests), so the JOC is very careful about checking what goes into the diets of the athletes and what medications they are taking."

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