The Yomiuri ShimbunYOKOHAMA — Japan was disqualified in its men’s 4x100-meter relay heat at the World Relays in Yokohama on Saturday after third-leg runner Yuki Koike and anchor Yoshihide Kiryu failed to complete the baton exchange.
Meanwhile, in the men’s 4x400, Japan clocked 3 minutes 2.55 seconds in its heat to advance to the final with the third-best time overall.
In the ill-fated 4x100, the baton exchanges from first-leg runner Shuhei Tada to Ryota Yamagata and the subsequent transfer to Koike were flawless.
In fact, Koike was out ahead of the field when he tried to deliver the baton to Kiryu.
But that’s when a rare mistake occurred.
The baton did not reach Kiryu, and the anchor ended up grabbing at air. Kiryu got Japan to third among eight teams, but the squad was eventually disqualified because there was no direct exchange of the baton between runners.
“We had almost no mistakes during training,” Koike said with a hinge of regret.
Of the members from Japan’s 4x100 silver medalist team at 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, two did not make this squad at the World Relay because of reasons that include injuries. So it was a whole new challenge for the group.
The new quartet was planning to test out various approaches and combinations, but it was a tough pill to swallow as those plans came to a quick end with a disqualification in the preliminaries.
“We might have slacked off in our approach, thinking we wouldn’t make a mistake with the baton exchange,” Kiryu said.
Japan has been progressing well in its preparations ahead of the Tokyo Games in the 4x100 relay, but now the team has experienced a huge setback in an area in which it normally excels. To win the gold Japan longs for at the Tokyo Games, the team must take this mistake and turn it into a lesson learned.