• Kyodo

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Ryoko Tamura, one of the favorites for the gold medal in the women’s judo competition, led the main contingent of Japan’s Olympic delegation into the host city Saturday, six days before the Sydney Games open.

Japanese Olympic Committee President Yushiro Yagi said he hopes the athletes will bring home at least eight gold medals as he arrived at Sydney Airport with 87 athletes and officials.

“I started getting nervous the moment I stepped off the plane. Hopefully, we’ll get off to a good start just like we did in Nagano,” Yagi said, referring to Japan’s five gold medals, its best-ever showing in the Winter Games, at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Yagi and other JOC officials hope that Japan’s athletes will rebound from their dismal showing at the 1996 Atlanta Games, where they won just three golds — all in judo.

“The fact I’m here in Sydney is beginning to work up my spirit. I think I’ll be able to remain in good shape until competition day and meet the expectations of the people who are supporting me,” said Tamura, a two-time silver medalist in the 48-kg division.

Defending Olympic champion Tadahiro Nomura, his national judo teammates, women’s weightlifter Kaori Niyanagi and softball team members were among the latest arrivals, greeted by local schoolchildren at the airport.

“I’ve been making good preparations. I’m trying to forget about the gold medal I won in Atlanta and think about what lies ahead of me now,” said Nomura, who appears in the men’s 60 kg on Sept. 16, the first day of judo competition.

After being mobbed by about 200 Japanese reporters and fans, the competitors checked in at the athletes’ village near the Sydney Olympic Park.

Most of the Japanese swimmers flew into Sydney last week and are currently based in Adelaide and the Tasmanian city of Hobart to complete their final tuneups for the Millennium Games.

Other groups of Japanese representatives, including the gymnastic team as well as yachting crews and canoeists, have already begun practicing in Sydney.

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