The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan earns 1st medal in men’s 4x400 relay

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Japan earned a medal in the men’s 4x400-meter relay at a global meet for the first time when the quartet of Rikuya Ito, Kaito Kawabata, Kentaro Sato and Aoto Suzuki finished second at the World Athletics Relays, on Sunday in Chorzow, Poland.

Clocking 3 minutes 4.45 seconds, it marked the first time Japan had won a medal in the event at an Olympics or world-level competitio­n.

The women’s 4x100 relay team of Hanae Aoyama, Mei Kodama, Ami Saito and Remi Tsuruta finished fourth in 44.40 to join the men’s 4x400 squad in securing a place at the Tokyo Olympics.

Japan won the bronze medal in the men’s 4x100 relay, an event in which it had already earned a slot at the Olympics. The team of Ryuichiro Sakai, Ryota Suzuki, Daisuke Miyamoto and Hiroki Yanagita finished fifth in 39.42, but was bumped up two places due to disqualifi­cations of teams ahead of them.

The strong showing in the men’s 4x400 to earn a silver medal was something the runners could be proud of, even though a number of powerhouse nations did not take part due to the pandemic.

The squad used a different lineup of runners in the final after advancing through the preliminar­ies.

Aoto Suzuki, who ran the previous day when the team set a Japan record in the mixed 4x400, was selected to run the anchor leg.

The 19-year-old Suzuki, who said he went into the event “with a mindset that I was on a mission,” passed two runners down the final straight to move into second place. He helped make up for the hole created when injured ace runner Julian Walsh was unable to participat­e.

The men’s 4x400 team, while getting closer to making the medal podium, had long operated in the shadow of the more successful 4x100 team. They went into a winter training camp with the motto of “We can’t lose to the 4x100.”

Said Sato, who plays the role of leader: “We want to show we’re a team that can get a medal.” (May 5)

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