This summer’s Olympic Games may be in Tokyo, but there’s no shortage of competitors from Osaka among team Japan.
Throughout the course of the games, Osaka.com will provide you with regular updates. Join us now as we run down the highs and lows from the first week of competition for Osaka’s athletes at Tokyo 2020.
Osaka Skateboarder becomes Japan’s Youngest Ever Medalist
If the Olympics means setting new standards, then few embody this spirit more than Osaka’s own Momiji Nishiya. Aged 13, she became Japan’s youngest ever medalist and the second youngest in Olympic history earlier this week. Among fans, some quietly hoped she might sneak onto the medal table. However few could have predicted that she would storm her way to gold.
Street skateboarding is a new event introduced for the first time at Tokyo 2020. It draws on the popularity of the much vaunted “X-Games” events in the US. Gamers may also recognize the event from the legendary “Tony Hawk’s” series of skateboarding video games. Nishiya was one of a series of Japanese skaters to take medals in the street events.
Whereas most Olympic events involve a race of some kind, street skateboarding is different. The object here is to move along a course designed to resemble a conventional street. This includes guard rails, steps and a host of other obstacles. Competitors earn a score based on the number of “tricks” (specialized jumps, flips and spins) they can pull off successfully as they progress along the course. In the end, Nishiya’s combined score of 15.26 was enough to clinch the gold. Her compatriot, Funa Nakayama took the Bronze medal in the same event.
Naomi Osaka Defeat Shocks Japan
After being chosen to light the Olympic flame last Friday, fans hoped that Naomi Osaka would regain her best form. Unfortunately, it seems the tennis ace is still struggling to get back to her usual self. Osaka looked noticeably jaded as she staggered to a shock third round exit at the hands of Marketa Vondrousova. The Czech is a former French Open finalist. However, Vondrousova’s current world ranking is 42. With Osaka currently ranked 2nd in the world, her 6-1, 6-4 defeat was a major upset.
Unfortunately, there has been the predictable social media bile spewed forth in the wake of her defeat. The high profile roles of both Osaka and Basketball Star Rui Hachimura in Friday’s Opening Ceremony served to spotlight the modern, multi-cultural side of Japan. Unfortunately, being Japan’s poster girl for progressivism and the online abuse that comes with it, seems to have become a burden to Osaka on the court. However, she is still very young, and we at Osaka.com wish Naomi all the best for the season to come. We fully expect her to be back up there, battling among the best, come Paris in 2024.
Japan Soccer Teams Step Up to the Challenge
There was better news for Japan’s soccer teams. Both the men’s and women’s sides made it to the quarter finals this week. After losing 1-0 to the UK in their second game, the Nadeshiko looked to be facing an embarrassing first round elimination. However, a hard fought 1-0 win over Chile in their final group game proved just enough to carry them through.
In the end, Japan qualified as one of the group stage’s highest scoring 3rd placed teams. Japan’s women face a tough task in their last 8 tie however, as they take on a highly fancied Sweden team. The Swedes produced one of the biggest shocks in recent memory when they defeated the pre-tournament favourites USA by 3-0 in their opening game. Osaka’s Nanami Kitamura and her defensive colleagues will need to be at their very best to shut out the Swedes this weekend.
For Japan’s men however, the path to a first soccer medal in 53 years seems a lot clearer. The Samurai Blues completed a clean sweep of their group stage matches with a 4-0 demolition of France on July 28th. Among the scorers was Osaka-born Yokohama F-Marinos striker Daizen Maeda. The men’s team now face a mouthwatering quarter-final against New Zealand on Saturday evening. Japan will be the heavy favourites but will need to be cautious against a Kiwis side proven to be one of the tournament’s surprise packages thus far.
Softball Stars Leave Americans Stunned, Again
It wasn’t only in the soccer that the American ladies team came unstuck this week. Despite being heavy favourites to win this, the most American of American sports, Japan’s Softball team produced an upset to claim the gold in this women’s event for the second time. Their 2-0 victory over the US in the final brings back memories of another famous Japanese softball victory over the US in the final of the Beijing Olympics softball tournament back in 2008.
As was the case on that day, the star of the show was once again veteran pitcher Yukiko Ueno. However, this time Ueno shared the spotlight with two emerging softball stars from Osaka: Minori Naito and Nayu Kiyohara. Japan’s softball triumph and the positivity generated from it in the host nation will once again call into question the IOC’s decision to drop Softball as an Olympic sport from 2024. Whilst the future of Olympic softball remains in doubt, for now at least, Japan can sit back and bask in the glory of another famous win.