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Japan Athletics Olympic History

1896 : Start of the Modern Games

I. Athens

The first Olympic Games of the Modern Era officially opened on April 6, 1896. A total of 241 athletes--all men--from 14 countries participated in 43 events in nine sports. There were 12 events in athletics--the 100, 400, 800, 1,500, 110 hurdles, marathon, long jump, triple jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put and discus.

1900 : Women participated for first time

II. Paris

The 2nd Olympic Games attracted 997 athletes, including 22 women, from 24 countries. The Games opened on May 20, 1900. As the Games were held in conjunction with the Paris World's Fair, the competition in 95 events in 18 sports was spread out over a five-month period.

1904 : First Olympics held outside Europe

III. St. Louis

After holding the first two editions in Europe, the Games headed across the Atlantic to the United States. But only 12 countries participated with a total of 651 athletes, said to be caused by the fact that few countries could raise the funds to travel to another continent.

1908 : NOCs took charge of sending athletes

IV. London

Through the first three Olympics, athletes could enter as individuals or members of teams. But from the London Games, all participation was limited to those chosen by each country's National Olympic Committee (NOC). For the first time, participating nations marched into the stadium for the Opening Ceremony in alphabetical order, led by a placard with the country name and the national flag.

1912 : Japan made first Olympic appearance

V. Stockholm

Two athletes, sprinter Yahiko Mishima and marathoner Shizo Kanaguri, became the first Japanese to participate in an Olympics. They also made up the the first Japanese "Olympic team". MISHIMA failed to advance past the preliminary round of the 100 and 200. He made the semifinal of the 400, but did not run. Kanaguri failed to finish the marathon race.

1916 : Canceled due to World War I

VI. Berlin

Assasination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary on July 28, 1914, ignited World War I. With Europe engulfed in war, holding of the 6th Olympic Games in Europe became impossible and the event was canceled.

1920 : Flying Finn Nurmi's golden triple

VII. Antwerp

Finland distance great Paavo Nurmi won the first three of his nine career gold medals with victories in the 10,000 and individual and team cross-country, while finishing second in the 5,000, making him the indisputed star of the athletics program. Japan sent a team of 12 athletes in Athletics, including Yahiko Mishima and Shizo Kanaguri, who eight years earlier had become the country's first-ever Olympians.

1924 : Mikio Oda placed 6th in triple jump

VIII. Paris

The USA dominated the athletics competition with 12 gold medals.
Mikio Oda became the first Japanese to earn a Top 6 award, placing sixth in the men's triple jump with a leap of 14.35 meters.

1928 : Oda leaped to Japan's 1st Olympic gold

IX. Amsterdam

Japan entered 16 men and one woman in the athletics competition. Mikio Oda, who placed sixth four years before in Paris, leaps 15.21 meters to win the men's triple jump and became Japan's first-ever Olympic gold medalist. Just as laudable, Japan's first-ever woman to compete in the Olympics, Kinue Hitomi, won the silver medal in the 800 meters as women's track events made their debut on the Olympic program.

1932 : Nambu captured triple jump gold

X. Los Angeles

The 10th Olympics in Los Angeles feature the first appearance of the Olympic Village to house athletes. The photo-finish camera and automated timing were introduced for the first time for track events. Japan sent an athletics team of 26 men and nine women. Chuhei Nambu won Japan's second straight gold medal in the men's triple jump with a winning leap of 15.72 meters. In the men's pole vault, Shuhei Nishida captures the silver medal. Takayoshi Yoshioka made the final of the men's 100 meters, placing sixth.

1936 : Tajima made it three straight for Japan

XI. Berlin

Japan sent an athletics team of 40 men and six women.Naoto Tajima became the third straight Japanese to win the gold medal in the Olympic men's triple jump, winning with a then-world record jump of 16.00 meters. Showing the country's depth in the event, Masao Harada took the silver medal while Kenkichi Oshima placed sixth. Pole vaulters Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Oe placed second and third, respectively, but in one of the great stories in Olympic lore, cut their medals in half, soldering together a half-silver, half-bronze medal for each.

1940 : Tokyo Olympics canceled

XII. Tokyo

Tokyo was awarded the 12th Olympic Games at the IOC Congress in July 1936. The following year, however, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident ignited the Sino-Japanese War and in 1938, the government decided to cancel hosting the Games, a decision accepted by the IOC. Helsinki was selected as the alternate host city, but when Soviet trooped invaded Finland, it was deemed that the city could no longer hold the Games and the event was abandoned.

1944 : 2nd straight Olympics lost to war

XIII. London

With the 12th Olympic Games canceled, the IOC desparately wanted to proceed with the 13th Olympics. But the war that raged in Europe leaves few with the desire to proceed with the Games and they were canceled again.

1948 : Japan, Germany not invited

XIV. London

The first Olympic Games in 12 years was expanded to 136 events in 17 sports, with a record 4,104 athletes from 59 countries and territories taking part. But left out of the reunion were Germany and Japan as punishment for their responsibility in starting World War II.

1952 : Japan returned after 16-year absence


Japan was allowed to return to the Olympics and, in athletics, sent a team of 16 men and three women. But they returned with no medals, as Toyoko Yoshino turned in the best performance with a fourth-place finish in the women's discus. The men's triple jump, which Japan dominated until its long hiatus, could only produce a sixth place by Yoshio Iimuro. Bunkichi Sawada also placed sixth in the men's pole vault.

1956 : Olympics arrived in Southern Hemisphere


The Melbourne Games made the first time for the Olympics to be held in the Southern Hemisphere. Japan sent an athletics team of 16 men and three women. The only Top 6 award finish came in men's marathon, in which Yoshiaki Kawashima placed 5th.

1960 : An Olympics to forget with no award finishes

XVII. Rome

The highlight of the Games came on the final day, when barefooted Ethiopian Abebe Bikila won the men's marathon. Japan entered 15 men and five women in the athletics events, but could manage no Top 6 finishes.

1964 : Tsuburaya captures bronze on home soil


In its first Olympics as the host nation, Japan entered its largest-ever athletics contingent with 52 men and 16 women. On the final day of competition, Kokichi Tsuburaya thrilled the home fans by winning the bronze medal in men's marathon, Japan's first Olympic medal in the post-War era.

1968 : Silver medal in marathon for Kimihara

XIX. Mexico City

After entrying every athletics event as host in the previous Olympics, Japan took a more competitive approach in limiting the team to Mexico City, with just 19 men entered. For the first time since women were allowed to compete in 1928, none were included on Japan's team. For the second Olympics in a row, Japan medals in the men's marathon as Kenji Kimihara took the silver. Meanwhile, American Jim Hines became the first man to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters, winning the gold in 9.95.

1972 : Kimihara upheld Japanese honor in marathon

XX. Munich

Japan entered 16 men and three women in the athletics competition. Kenji Kimihara, the 1968 silver medalist in the men's marathon, finished a laudable 5th for Japan's lone Top 6 finish. In the men's pole vault, the United States suffered its first-ever loss in the Olympics when East Germany's Wolfgang Nordwig won the gold, ending an American run of 16 straight titles. The Munich Games were marred by the murders of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.

1976 : Another poor showing by Japan


The Olympics entered the space age when the Olympic Flame was lit by a laser relayed via satellite from Olympia in Greece to the Canadien capital of Ottawa. Japan sent 13 men and two women for the athletics competition. Itsuo Takanezawa provided Japan's highest finish with an 8th place in the men's pole vault, leaving Japan without an award-winner for the first time since the 1960 Rome Olympics.

1980 : Japan joined U.S.-led boycott


Moscow hosted the first Olympics to be held in a communist country. But when the United States called for a boycott to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Japan joined in and did not send a team. However, prior to the Games, the Japan federation selected a "phantom" team of 16 men and two women.

1984 : Japan benefited from expanded awards

XXIII.Los Angeles

In athletics, Japan sent a team of 16 men and six women. From this Olympics, recognition was expanded from the top six finishers to the top eight. The star of the Games is American sprinter Carl Lewis, who won four gold medals in the 100, 200, long jump and 4x100 relay. The three men selected to compete in the marathon at the boycotted Moscow Games remain Japan's entries for Los Angeles. Takeshi So led the group in 4th place. Although Japan won no medals, led by So the nation secured four Top 8 awards.

1988 : Scourge of doping hit the Games

XXIV. Seoul

The biggest news of the meet came in the men's 100. Canada's Ben Johnson, the 1987 world champion, blew away defending Olympic champion Carl Lewis to win in an eye-popping world record 9.79. But in a shocking twist, Johnson tested positive for performance-enhancing steroids and was stripped of his gold medal. Japan sent an athletics team of 23 men and six women, but left with just Takeyuki Nakayama's 4th-place finish in the men's marathon to show for it.

1992 : Japan medals in both marathons


The Japanese team consisted of 24 men and nine women. Japan's most successful post-War Olympics to date saw Koichi Morishita won the silver medal in the men's marathon and Yuko Arimori did likewise in the women's race. In addition, the nation posted two 4th-place finishes, a 6th, a 7th and two 8ths. Standing out was the performance of Susumu Takano in the men's 400, as he became the first Japanese in 60 years to make the final of a sprint event. Among the women, high jumper Megumi Sato cleared 1.91 meters to finish 7th, Japan's best-ever Olympic finish in a women's jumping event.

1996 : Arimori medals in 2nd straight Olympics


The Atlanta Games marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Modern Olympics. Japan dispatched 21 men and 12 women in athletics. Yuko Arimori, the silver medalist in the women's marathon in Barcelona, medaled for the second time in a row by placing 3rd. Other women made their marks as well, with Michiko Shimizu placing 4th in the 5,000 and Masako Chiba and Yuko Kawakami finishing 5th and 7th, respectively, in the 10,000.

2000 : Takahashi became Japan's 1st female gold medalist


The Japanese team consisted of 28 men and 12 women. In winning the women's marathon in 2:23:14, Naoko Takahashi became the first Japanese woman to win a gold medal in an athletics event. On the men's side, Toshinari Takaoka ended Japan's 64-year absence in the final of the 10,000 and places 7th, making him the first award-winner in track in 16 years. He also made the final of the 5,000, ending 64 years of futility in that event as well. Japan also made an impression in the sprints as first-time Olympian Shingo Suetsugu clocked 20.37 to advance to the semifinals of the 200, while helping the 4x100 relay team placed a surprising 6th. In the 400 hurdles, Dai Tamesue fell in the preliminary round of his Olympic debut, but the following year would go on to win Japan's first-ever track medal at a world championships with a bronze in Edmonton.

2004 : Gold medals for men and women


Japan sent an athletics team of 26 men and 13 women. Koji Murofushi became the first Japanese to win a gold medal in a throwing event, winning the men's hammer, while Mizuki Noguchi gave Japan two golds in a row in the women's marathon. Reiko Tosa and Naoko Sakamoto followed Noguchi in 5th and 7th places, respectively. Along with Shigeru Aburaya in 5th and Toshinari Suwa in 6th in the men's races, five of Japan's six marathoners earned awards. In addition, both men's relay teams came in 4th, the first time for both to earn awards at the same Olympics in 72 years.

2008 : Bronds medal for Men4 x 100m relay


While Usain Bolt and other Jamaicans left a massive impact in the short-distance races, Team Japan achieved historical feats in China. The Japanese men's 4 x 100 relay team, which had made top-eight finishes in the 2000 Sydney and '04 Athens Games, successfully grabbed the bronze medal. It was the second short-track medal in the Olympics, first in 80 years, for the country.
First, female athletes opened a new chapter for the country as Chisato Fukushima of the 100 and Asami Tanno of the 400 competed in an Olympics for the first time in 56 and 44 years, respectively. Japan also competed in the 4 x 400 relay for the first time ever. Meanwhile, Satomi Kubokura, who became the first female runner to run in the 400 hurdle, advanced to the semifinals.
For the men's side, hammer thrower and 2004 Athens Games gold medalist Kojj Murofushi was fifth, making a consecutive top-eight finish.
In the men's 50km walk, Yuki Yamazaki finished seventh, making Japan's first top-eight finish in a walk in an Olympics. He put up a good race in the 20km, finishing 11th, as well.
Meanwhile, it was positive that young runners, such as Kensuke Takezawa, who competed in two events as a collegian, for the mens, Yuriko Kobayashi and Yurika Nakamura for the women, were able to earn precious experience.

2012 : Murofushi captures bronze medal; men's 4 x 100team, Nakamoto make top-eight finishes


Koji Murofushi captured the bronze medal inthe men's hammer throw, finishing within the topeight for the third straight Olympics after heearned the gold in the 2004 Athens and was fifth inthe 2008 Beijing. The men's 4x100 relay team ,which featured Ryota Yamagata, Masashi Eriguchi,Shinji Takahira and Shota Iizuka, made a top-eightfinish for the fourth consecutive Olympics after itearned sixth-, fourth- and third-finishes in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008,
respectively, with a time of 38.07 seconds. It was thefirst Olympic appearance for the three membersoutside Takahira, but they lived up to the highexpectations. In addition, Kentaro Nakamoto finished sixth in the men's marathon.
Masumi Fuchise was 11th with a time of 1 hour, 28 minutes 41 seconds in the women's 20-km walk race.It was the highest finish for a Japanese in thediscipline and was also a personal best.
Elsewhere, Ryota Yamagata ran 10.07 seconds in thepreliminary round of the men's 100, Koichiro Morioka had a time of 3:43:14 in the men's 50-kmwalk race, Genki Dean threw for 82.07 meters in themen's javelin, and Keisuke Ushiro racked up 7,842points in the decathlon. They all had the best marks in the Olympics for Japanese athletes in their respective disciplines. For the women's side, Hitomi Niiya notched a sub-31 minute mark in the 10,000meters, which was the first Olympic feat for a Japanese, Yuki Ebihara posted a 59.25-meter mark in the javelin and the 4x100 relay team, which had Anna Doi, Kana Ichikawa, Chisato Fukushima and Yumeka Sano, came through, and they had the best Olympic marks for Japanese athletes. Meanwhile,Tomomi Abiko had a 4.25-meter mark in the women's pole vault for a 19th-place finish in the preliminary. Niiya, Yamagata and Morioka prevailed at the sports' biggest stage, easily exceeding their previous personal bests.

2016 : Men's 4×100 relay team captures silver
Arai earns bronze in men's 50km Race Walk

XXXI.Rio de Janeiro

The men's 4×100 relay team captured its first medal since the 2008 Beijing Olympics while also clinching a finish of an eighth-place or better in five consecutive games. The squad won silver in 2008 and 2016. In the '16 final, Aska Cambridge competed with Usain Bolt and managed to finish ahead of Canada and China as the anchor. In the men's 100, Ryota Yamagata advanced to the semifinals for two straight games while setting Japanese record in all- time Olympic games of men's 100 with 10.05. Olympic debutant Cambridge competed in the Semi- final as well.
In the men's 50km race walk, Hirooki Arai won bronze, which was Japan's first-ever medal in an Olympic race walking. He was once disqualified after the race but wound up earning the medal after the Japanese federation's successful appeal. In the men's 20km race walk, Daisuke Matsunaga finished in seventh, becoming the first Japanese top-eight finisher in the discipline.
In the field events, men's pole vault's Daichi Sawano became the first Japanese to finish within the top eight in 64 years, placing himself in seventh. Keisuke Nozawa of the men's 400 hurdles, Ryohei Arai of the men's javelin throw and Miyuki Uehara of the women's 5,000 were the only qualifiers.
In the women's 200, Chisato Fukushima renewed her own Japanese Olympic record 23.21.

2020:The 32nd Tokyo Olympic Games was postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19.

2021: The postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was held with no spectators.

XXXII. Tokyo

Team Japan consisted of 66 athletes (44 men and 22 women) which was the second largest number since the 1964 Tokyo Games when Japan had a quota for the host country.
Koki Ikeda got a Silver Medal for the 20km Race Walk with Toshikazu Yamanishi following with a Bronze Medal. Another 7 athletes placed in the Top 8.

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