Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — Former major leaguer Ichiro Suzuki is the most popular athlete in Japan in 2019, an annual survey by Central Research Services Inc., a Jiji Press affiliate, revealed Friday.
Suzuki, who retired as a player for the Seattle Mariners in March, beat out two-time Olympic champion figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu to take the top spot.
It is the first time in two years for Suzuki to be the most popular athlete. Japanese major leaguer Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, who topped last year’s survey, fell to third place.
The survey showed three in four respondents are interested in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Female respondents in their 50s are most interested in the Tokyo Games, with 85.4 percent responding positively.
Swimming was chosen as the most anticipated event at the 2020 Games, followed by the marathon races and gymnastics.
The survey showed that 67.9 percent of respondents are aware that the Rugby World Cup is set to kick off in Japan in September. However, only 37.2 percent showed any interest in the competition.
When asked about the most memorable moment in sports from the Heisei era, the Imperial era from 1989 to May this year, a majority of respondents chose tennis star Naomi Osaka’s victory at the 2018 U.S. Open.
Hanyu’s second consecutive Olympic gold medal, which he won at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, came in second, followed by Ichiro’s retirement.