The Yomiuri ShimbunA rising track-and-field star with roots in Japan has attracted worldwide attention.
Michael Norman, born to an American father and Japanese mother, was among the world’s fastest runners this season in the men’s 200- and 400-meter races, and is now considered a strong contender for a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 21-year-old hopes to represent the United States, where he was born and raised, in his mother’s home country next year.
Norman’s mother Nobue Saito set what was then the national junior high school record in the women’s 100 in 1989. His father was also reportedly a track-and-field athlete. Norman played various sports before committing to track and field at around 12.
He says his mixed Japanese-American background makes him unique and that he respects the heritage and culture of both countries. He has made a name for himself in the United States, the world’s leading track-and-field power.
Norman clocked a time of 43.45 seconds in the 400 in April, tied for the fourth-fastest time ever.
He visited Japan in May and won the 200 at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix Osaka 2019 in 19.84 seconds. Shota Iizuka, who ran in the outer lane next to Norman, was surprised by Norman’s speed, exclaiming, “I was overtaken in the first five steps.”
On June 6 in Rome, Norman ran the 200 in 19.70 seconds, the fastest time in the world this season.
When visiting Japan in May, Norman discussed his impressions of his mother’s home country, explaining that he was careful to not be late, as his mother said that Japanese people are punctual. He also never realized that Osaka was such a big city and was overwhelmed by the large number of people riding bicycles.
Norman’s battles with the University of Florida’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, who also has a Japanese mother, will surely attract attention. Norman does not perceive Sani Brown as a rival, though, as the two have never raced against each other.
The American sprinter’s main priority is to win top competitions in the United States and secure an Olympic berth.
He said that he came to greatly love Japan after spending three days in the country and that the Tokyo Olympics will be a special opportunity for him because of his Japanese ancestry.