Kitajima, Asashoryu win inaugural FSAJ Sportsman of the Year honors

by Jack Gallagher
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Kosuke Kitajima won two gold medals at the Athens Games this summer.

Double Olympic gold medal swimmer Kosuke Kitajima and sumo star Asashoryu have been selected as the top Japanese and foreign athletes for 2004 in voting by the Foreign Sportswriters Association of Japan, the organization announced Monday.

Kitajima, who won the men’s 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events at the Athens Games in August, took first place in balloting by members of the FSAJ in the Japanese category, outpolling catcher Atsuya Furuta of the Yakult Swallows, who finished second, and world figure skating champion Shizuka Arakawa, who came in third, for the honor.

Asashoryu, a native of Mongolia, won five of the six sumo tournaments this year, becoming the first wrestler to accomplish the feat in 18 years. He came up short in only the Autumn Basho in Tokyo.

News photo WIDTH="200" HEIGHT="269"/>Asashoryu won five of the six sumo tournaments contested in 2004.

He captured the award in the foreign category over American slugger Tuffy Rhodes of the Yomiuri Giants and the Urawa Reds Brazilian striker Emerson, who tied for second place.

The FSAJ honors one top foreign and Japanese athlete, based on their performances in Japan or representing Japan, on an annual basis.

These are the inaugural awards handed out by the group, which is comprised of foreign members of the sports media in Japan and Japanese sports media working at English-language media outlets.