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Relay team aims for better-than-passing grade

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Aska Cambridge, left, and Yoshihide Kiryu practice passing a baton on Sunday.

By Kazuhiko Hirano / Yomiuri Shimbun SportswriterThe Japan men’s 4x100-meter relay team has recently started training for the upcoming season — albeit with an eye on gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Having captured the silver at the 2016 Rio Games and the bronze at the world championships last year, the sprinters are making efforts to improve their individual running techniques and gain more experience in competition. They aim to win the Asian Games, set for August in Jakarta.

In a workout at the Ajinomoto National Training Center in Tokyo on Sunday, Yoshihide Kiryu, who competed at the Rio Games, delivered a smooth pass of the baton to Aska Cambridge.

Such precision is a strength of the Japanese team. However, now that this group is highly skilled in passing the baton, improving that facet is a challenge.

“It’s difficult to cut the time even more with their baton-passing techniques alone,” said Hiroyasu Tsuchie, an Olympic development coach of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations.

Faced with such a situation, each runner is now focusing on improving their individual running. Although the team used to regularly hold training camps, the athletes will now prioritize their own training schedules.

“At the Rio Games, we pledged to reunite after all of us are able to clock sub-10-second times [in the 100 meters] and sub-19-second times [in the 200 meters],” Kiryu recalled. “If each of us improves, I think we’ll be able to get the gold.”

The team reconfirmed its goals and what has to be done as each gathered for the workout. The amount of training they do as a team decreases, but they make up that lost time by entering more competitions.

“Gaining experiences in actual competition, including the failures, will take them to a different level,” Tsuchie said.

In the Seiko Golden Grand Prix, set for May 20 in Osaka, the Japanese team will compete against China and the United States. It will also compete in the world-class Diamond League series to be held in London in July.

The aim is to clock a sub-37.50 time — breaking the Asian record of 37.60 the team set at the Rio Games.

With the Tokyo Olympics about two years away, the members of the team have no time to spare in trying to inch a little closer to the Jamaican and U.S. sprinters — many of whom can cover 100 meters in less than 10 seconds.Speech

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