The Daily Manila Shimbun


INTERVIEW: JOC chief confident Japan can win 30 gold medals at Olympics

July 24, 2019

Tokyo--Japan can win 30 gold medals in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said in a recent interview.

"I'm sure it's possible" for Japan to win the 30 golds targeted by the JOC, Yamashita said, speaking before the start on Wednesday of the one-year countdown to the opening ceremony of the quadrennial event.

In recent events, Japanese athletes have faced uphill battles in gymnastics and other sports at which they were expected to win Olympic medals.

"Japanese athletes have been marked thoroughly by their rivals from other countries," Yamashita said, citing one explanation for Japanese athletes' recent struggles.

"I said about a year ago that the medal target could be revised up, but frankly speaking, Japan has been making no progress since then," he said.

In past Olympics, Japan won a record 16 gold medals each in the 1964 Tokyo Games and the 2004 Athens Games.

As Japan earned only 12 golds in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, the goal of winning 30 in the Tokyo Games appears to be a high bar for Japan, analysts said.

Although 30 gold medals seem to be a huge number, there are some events that will be newly included in the Tokyo Games, Yamashita noted.

"Karate, baseball, softball and urban sports (such as sport climbing) will be promising events," he said.

Yamashita, a gold medalist in the men's judo open-weight category in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, assumed the top post at the JOC in late June to succeed Tsunekazu Takeda.

Yamashita sees badminton and table tennis, in which Japanese athletes achieved good results in recent international competitions, as events that could yield gold medals for Japan, following such sports as judo, gymnastics, swimming and wrestling, in which Japan has won many golds in past Olympics.

"I hope that judo won't give Japan the first gold medal in the Tokyo Games," Yamashita, who doubles as president of the All Japan Judo Federation, said with a smile.

"It's important (for the JOC) to build relationships of trust with sports associations and respond to their needs," he said.

While noting that the success of the Tokyo Olympics "takes top priority over anything else," Yamashita is looking at how the sports community in Japan can develop beyond 2020.

It is certain that budgets for fostering Japanese athletes will decline after the 2020 Games, he said.

"Japan needs to promote sports sponsorship," Yamashita said.

"My job is to deepen the understanding of the importance of sports promotion among the public and athletes," he said, adding that Japan has not been making enough efforts in that field. Jiji Press