Japan eyes top three in Olympic medal standings

Saori Yoshida
Getty Images

TOKYO (AP) — The newly formed Japan Sports Agency has set ambitious goals for the nation’s athletes at both the Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo Olympics.

Headed by Seoul Olympics swimming gold medalist Daichi Suzuki, the government agency has targets of at least 10 gold medals at next year’s Rio Games and a minimum of 20 at Tokyo in 2020.

Japan won seven golds at the 2012 London Olympics and was sixth overall with 38 medals. The JSA calculates that 20 golds at Tokyo would put Japan third in the overall medal standings.

“One of the reasons we set these goals is that when top athletes are successful, they inspire citizens to get involved in sports,” Suzuki said. “It creates a virtuous cycle.”

The JSA was established on Oct. 1 with the goals of increasing Japan’s international competitiveness and improving athlete support for the Tokyo Olympics.

The agency is also tasked with improving the health of citizens through sports, increasing Japan’s international status, and stimulating the economy and rural areas.

The sports agency will have a staff of around 120 and will comprise five divisions.

The 48-year-old Suzuki had previously served as president of the Olympians Association of Japan, chairman of the Japan Swimming Association, an executive board member of the Japanese Olympic Committee and a professor at Juntendo University.

In addition to the gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke in Seoul, Suzuki won the gold medal in the same event at the 1986 Asian Games also in Seoul.

“When we consider the national characteristics of Japanese and the country of Japan, we are a country that attaches importance to teamwork and collaboration,” Suzuki said.

“In order to emerge to the top level of sports on a global basis, perhaps we need to focus not so much on harmony and cooperation but at times place emphasis on autonomy and creativity. Acting and thinking in a different manor.”

2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships

2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro

Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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