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Japan aims for boost toward 2020

The Associated PressTOKYO (AP) — With the Tokyo Olympics less than two years away, Japanese athletes will be using the Asian Games to build confidence as they prepare to host the world on sport’s biggest stage.

The Japanese Olympic Committee has set an ambitious target of 30 gold medals for the 2020 Olympics, almost double the national record.

The most gold medals Japan has won at the Summer Olympics is 16 — in 1964 at Tokyo and in 2004 at Athens. At the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, Japan claimed the sixth-highest number of gold medals with 12.

The Asian Games, being held Aug. 18 to Sept. 2 in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang, are an important stepping stone. While Japan can always count on medals in traditional Japanese sports such as judo and karate, the Asian Games will give the country a chance to gauge preparations in sports they haven’t always dominated.

Nowhere is this more evident than in athletics where Japan’s 4x100-meter relay team has set its sights on the gold medal at Tokyo in 2020.

Considering the strong team featuring Yoshihide Kiryu, Aska Cambridge, Shota Iizuka and Ryota Yamagata won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics, that notion is no longer a far-fetched dream.

At the Asian Games, they’ll face a stern challenge from China’s 4x100 relay team, silver medalists at the 2015 world championships and another Olympic medal contender.

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