On Sunday 8th the curtain finally came down on what seemed like a lot more than 2 weeks of Olympic competition. Japan has every right to feel proud.
Surpassing even the organizers’ most optimistic hopes, Japan’s athletes surged to third in the final medal table. Only the global powerhouses of the USA and China amassed more medals at Tokyo 2020.
Osaka’s own athletes more than player their part.
After a first week of shocks and surprises, with the emergence of a new generation of heroes, week 2 brought some ups and downs.
Join us now, as we run down the highlights of the second week of Tokyo 2020 from an Osaka perspective.
Table of Contents
Soccer Heroes Give Their all, but Come up Just Short
The performance of both the men’s and women’s soccer squads at the Olympic tournament gives Japan plenty to be positive about for the future. However, in the end, getting amongst the medals proved agonizingly just out of reach for both sides. Japan’s women’s team, counting Osaka’s Nanami Kitamura among their squad, lost out to Sweden in the last 8. The 3-1 final score flattered the Swedes in the end. It was a closer game than the scoreline suggested. However, in the end Sweden’s superior firepower upfront, and greater physicality proved the decisive factors.
There is absolutely no shame in losing out to the team that, in the end, came within a couple of penalty kicks of winning the tournament. The Nadeshiko now have two years to prepare for their next big challenge, the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
For the men’s soccer team, it was an even more agonizing defeat. After pushing tournament favourites Spain all the way for 90 minutes in the last 4, they finally succumbed in extra time.
The fatigue from this phenomenal effort clearly took a toll on the players as they also went on to lose 3-1 to Mexico in the Bronze medal playoff.
However, the contributions of emerging stars such as Osaka’s Daizen Maeda and Ritsu Doan gives both the city and the country plenty of course for optimism.
For the men’s team, the next World Cup in Qatar is a little over a year away. Both Maeda and Doan will look to build on their Olympic appearances and cement places in the starting line up ahead of the big kick off next November.
Shimizu Among Karate Medal Heroes
As expected, there were several Japanese karateka among the medals this year. Of particular note however, was Osaka’s own Kiyou Shimizu. We showcased Shimizu as one of our medal hopes in our recent Olympic Preview here at Osaka.com. Shimizu showed not only grace and elegance but incredible focus, concentration and courage as she took the silver medal in the Women’s Kata event.
Karate at the Olympics comes in two forms. the Kumite, is the combat form, where two athletes fight each other one on one. However, the Kata is an individual event. The athelete must perform a sequence of moves with posture, positioning, power and overall dynamism being of paramount importance. It is, in essence, a blend of martial arts and rhythmic gymnastics.
Japan’s success in the various Karate categories and weight classes, not to mention its’ popularity among viewers, will no doubt increase pressure on the IOC to bring the sport back again in 2024.
Japan’s Baseball Heroes Humble the Americans, Again
The Olympics is, of course, a place where sportsmanship comes to the fore. The kind of petty rivalries and grudge matches we often see elsewhere in sports don’t really come into play.
However, if there two teams who especially getting one over on one another, it is the baseball teams of Japan and the US.
As the inventors of the sport, the US is, undoubtedly the greatest nation on Earth for baseball, at least historically.
Despite home advantage, few really expected Japan to take the gold medal in an event they haven’t won since the Los Angeles Games of 1984.
Fate however, had a different hand to play this time around.
Japan’s Softball team, the female equivalent of baseball at the Olympics, already took gold back in week one. Perhaps the ladies’ performance that day inspired Japan’s baseball heroes to step up and play to their best. In the end, that’s exactly what they did.
In a pulse-pounding final, Japan recorded runs in the 3rd and 8th innings, to run out 2-0 winners. Among the heroes for Japan that day were 3 of Osaka’s finest: Hideto Asamura, Hayato Sakamoto and Masahiro Tanaka. Their victory ensures them not only legendary status among Japan’s baseball greats, it also probably means none of them will ever have to buy a drink in Osaka ever again!
Athletes Hailed, Authorities Condemned
The public mood across Osaka this past fortnight was one of unconditional support for the athletes taking part in Tokyo 2020. By the same token however, there was almost universal condemnation of the IOC and the Japanese government. They remain angry at authorities for insisting that the games go ahead, without crowds, and with such high levels of Covid-19 infection continuing to ravage Osaka and the wider country.
The stunning performances from Osaka’s Olympic heroes give us all hope at a dark and difficult time for this city.
However, it remains to seen what long term damage, hosting the Olympics at all costs will have on Osaka and Japan as a whole.