The Yomiuri ShimbunThis is an outstanding achievement to be noted in the history of sports in Japan.
In the men’s 100-meter race in athletics, Yoshihide Kiryu clocked 9.98 seconds, becoming the first Japanese sprinter to run the distance in under 10 seconds. His shattering of such a great barrier should be praised.
The new record was set at an intercollegiate meet held in Fukui. He passed the finish line at a brisk pace, with his trademark prominent acceleration beginning from the middle of the race.
The previous Japanese record was 10.00 seconds set by Koji Ito in 1998. Nineteen years later, a long-held dream was finally realized. Japan’s athletics world can be considered to have entered a new era.
After he clocked 10.01 seconds in April 2013, Kiryu had been expected to reach the 9-second level, a feat seen as being only a question of time.
Yet this hope had been dashed a number of times. He must have been under great pressure to break 10 seconds as soon as possible. His comment, “I have, at last, been able to rewrite my personal best, which had been at a standstill for four years,” was charged with emotion.
In the years he seemed to remain stationary, rivals emerged. Among those rivals are Ryota Yamagata, Aska Cambridge, Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, and Shuhei Tada.
In the 100 meters at the National Athletics Championships in June, Kiryu finished fourth and later felt humiliated for failing to qualify to run the 100 meters at the World Championships in Athletics.
Spurred by competition
There is no doubt the new record was born of Kiryu’s fervent hope of becoming the first Japanese to run under 10 seconds in the race, and was turbocharged by his own frustration. How precious it is to have good rivals who compete vigorously with each other! The fruits of such rivalry have just be seen.
It was in 1968 that the first human ran under 10 seconds in the 100 meters. Jim Hines of the United States clocked 9.95 seconds at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
Since then, sprinters who have gone down in history, such as Carl Lewis, have continually shaved time off that record. The present world record is 9.58 seconds, set by Usain Bolt of Jamaica at the world championships in 2009.
When glancing at the lineup of those who have run the 100-meter sprint in the 9-second range, the majority are athletes from the United States or Jamaica. It is significant that a Japanese athlete has placed himself among them. “I’ve become able to stand on the starting block of the world now,” Kiryu said.
His record of 9.98 seconds is the equivalent to finishing 7th in the final of the 100 meters at last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Kiryu reaching the final in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo may not be unrealistic, either. He needs to raise his overall ability to be able to run consistently in the 9-second range.
Synergistic effects on other athletes are also expected. Not ones to bow to Kiryu, his rivals will gear up for battle. That will help raise the level of Japanese sprinters.
In the men’s 4x100-meter relay, Japan won the silver at the Rio Olympics and the bronze at the recent world championships. Hopes are high for Kiryu and other athletes to make a spectacular showing at the Tokyo Olympics.