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Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007

ODDS AND EVENS

Murofushi, Tamesue thrill, disappoint fans


OSAKA — Within a span of an hour on Saturday night, Japanese spectators enjoyed the excitement of watching Koji Murofushi, the 2004 Olympic gold medal hammer thrower, and Dai Tamesue, a two-time bronze medal winner at the IAAF World Athletics Championships, in action.

Ed Odeven

Murofushi didn't disappoint them.

Tamesue did.

Japan's Second-Generation Throwing Samurai qualified for the final of his specialty event at Nagai Stadium on the opening day of the 2007 World Championships.

He did what he had to do.

The 13-time national champion tossed the hammer 77.25 meters on his second attempt to earn a spot in the next round. He had a mediocre mark of 73.11 on his first attempt.

Murofushi recently wrote his Ph.D thesis on the biomechanics of the hammer throw. It's safe to assume, dear reader, that none of your elementary school, junior high school, high school or college assignments rank as difficult as that one.

Here's another carefully considered assumption: Using kanji, English or Swahili, Murofushi-san's subject matter involved plenty of technical, wordy descriptions.

And how does one earn a 100 percent grade on this report?

I wonder.

Well, they can simply follow the step-by-step procedures Murofushi used to win the gold medal in Greece.

He is, after all, his own best critic, and knows when his footwork, spins and powerful arm revolutions have worked in symphonic perfection.

That wasn't the case on Saturday night.

"I made some technical mistakes on the first throw," said Murofushi, whose best effort this season is 79.24. "I want to do my best in the final.

"Gradually, I'll get used to the competition. It's important to make it through qualification," he said.

Murofushi, whose father Shigenobu was a legendary hammer thrower a generation ago, now has a shot at winning his first gold at worlds. He was the 2001 silver medalist in Edmonton, Alberta, and third in 2003 in Paris.

Monday's hammer final starts at 7:30 p.m.

A gold medal would add another remarkable chapter to the Murofushi history book. A quick recap: Father and son have owned the national title every year since 1971.

Oh, by the way, a guy named Libor Charfreitag from Slovakia had a shorter evening of work. Call it one and done. His toss of 80.61 meters on his first attempt put him in the No. 1 position among Group A participants entering the final. (Group B throwers got under way at 9 p.m. and complete results were unavailable at press time.)

And now . . . back to the 400 hurdles, Tamesue competed in the third of four heats. He was among the leaders throughout the race and appeared to have the necessary speed to place in the top four as the race reached the final 75 meters. But Tamesue slowed down — and nearby competitors Edivaldo Moneteiro of Portugal in Lane 8 and Aleksandr Derevyagin of Russia in Lane 6 — pushed past him over the race's final meters.

In a photo finish, Monteiro, the fourth-place finisher, edged Derevyagin, though both of them were clocked in 49.66. Chalk up an assist to instant replay.

Tamesue was next in 49.67.

And now Tamesue finds himself holding the unnatural role of a spectator for Tuesday's 400 hurdles final.

In Tamesue's heat, Jamaican Danny McFarlane took first in 48.91 seconds. James Carter, who holds the year's best time in the event (47.22), was first in the second heat with a time of 49.52.

Tamesue's season-best effort was 48.79. His career-best time is 47.89.

Now he can only wonder what might've been.

When the race was over and Tamesue grasped the significance of the situation, he buried his face in his hands with a clearly visible look of disappointment.

Without voicing any words at that precise moment, the expression on his face seemed to indicate that these would be the first words out of his mouth: "If only I ran two-hundredths of a second faster."

Masahira Yoshikata also failed to qualify in the event. He completed the second heat in 50.59 seconds.

And so Saturday night, the first of the 2007 World Championships, provided a glimpse of a nation's relief and disappointment packaged into an obscure combination — are there two events with fewer similarities than the hammer throw and the 400 hurdles? — as Murofushi advanced and Tamesue bowed out.



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