Asian Games 2018: Japan hope to rein in China in their bid for 30 gold medals at Tokyo Olympics
The Japanese contingent are hoping to use the Jakarta and Palembang Games to prepare for the Olympics on home soil
Japan expect to go head to head with China in four sports at the Tokyo Olympics where they are targeting 30 gold medals and third place overall, with the Asian Games in Jakarta playing a major role in their preparations.
Yasuhiro Yamashita, a judo legend who is head of the Japan Olympic Committee, said on Saturday that Japan are targeting their own sport of judo, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics as key sources of gold medals in 2020.
And although they finished above China in all four sports at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Yamashita expects the Chinese to be their main challengers in these disciplines in Indonesia and Tokyo.
“We have two more years to go before the Olympics in Tokyo and the Japan team has targeted 30 gold medals,” said Yamashita. “Therefore we feel that the Asian Games is very important because we have to work together towards the Olympic Games and the Japanese athletes who want to compete in Tokyo must really compete at a high level here.
“Of course, China is the number one sports team in Asia and we hope to come close to them. We think that it will be very close in judo, wrestling, swimming and gymnastics and this is where we want to see how strong we are compared to China and other countries.”
The Japanese delegation is 1,096 strong of which 762 are athletes. Japan finished third in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon with 47 gold medals, 77 silver and 76 bronze. China led the way with 151 gold, 109 silver and 85 bronze. South Korea were third on 79 gold, 70 silver and 79 bronze.
Among the star athletes from those sports are rising swimmer Rikako Ikee and Kakeru Tanigawa, hailed as the new king of Japanese gymnastics.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Japan were second in Asia and sixth overall with 12 gold medals, eight silver and 21 bronze. China were the region’s top performers with 26 gold medals, 18 silver and 26 bronze to finish in third place behind the United States (46, 37, 38) and Great Britain (27, 23, 17).
“The Olympic Games, for us, is not every four years,” said Yamashita. “It is like every 50 years or 100 years. We can talk about winning and losing but what is more important is what we can learn. For the Asian Games, we can learn a lot and help in our preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.”
He said the four sports are Japan’s main targets for gold but identified a number of other disciplines in which they will be competitive at the Asian Games and the Olympics.
“We have many young and talented athletes who take part in sports such as karate, sailing, badminton, surfing and sports climbing. Many of these sports are new to the Olympics and we have high hopes for our athletes in these sports.”
Yamashita, who won gold in judo at the 1984 Olympics and four world titles, said the Japanese athletes competing in Jakarta and Palembang are not guaranteed places in the Tokyo squad.
“As I said there are a lot of young athletes who are hoping to represent Japan in Tokyo,” he said. “So these athletes must take the Asian Games seriously. It is our last major games before the Olympics and they must show a high level of performance.”