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Having come a long way since taking part in its first Olympics more than 90 years ago, Japan will set out to claim its 100th gold medal at the summer Games in Athens this month. After the Sydney Games in 2000, Japan had won 98 gold, 97 silver and 103 bronze medals for a total of 298 summer Olympic medals.

With 301 medal events at the Aug. 13-29 Athens Games, winning a pair of golds seems all but certain. The question is who will claim the prize.

Japan has a chance to reach the milestone as early as Aug. 14, the first day of full competition, when judoka Tadahiro Nomura goes for his third consecutive Olympic victory in the men’s 60-kg class and Ryoko Tani tries to defend the women’s 48-kg judo title.

In addition, aiming for the first gold medal up for grabs at the quadrennial event is Japan’s top sport shooter Hiromi Misaki, who will compete in the women’s 10-meter air rifle final scheduled in the late morning of Aug. 14.

If their efforts fail, Kosuke Kitajima will be standing by with his attempt to claim gold in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke on Aug. 15 and the 200 two days later.

More hopefuls are set to come along later in the Games, including male hammer thrower Koji Murofushi, judoka Kosei Inoue and Keiji Suzuki, male gymnast Takehiro Kashima, female wrestlers Kyoko Hamaguchi, Saori Yoshida and Chiharu and Kaori Icho, and the baseball and softball teams.

Looking back on its Olympic history, Japan could not win any medals in its 1912 debut in Stockholm, and took the first medal — a silver — eight years later at the Antwerp Games when Ichiya Kumagai finished runnerup in the men’s singles tennis competition. Kumagai went on to claim the silver medal in the men’s doubles as well with partner Seiichiro Kashio.

The first gold medal came at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, in which Mikio Oda won the men’s triple jump with a leap of 15.21 meters. Six days after Oda’s feat, Yoshiyuki Tsuruta won the men’s 200-meter breaststroke final.

Tsuruta defended his title in the 1932 Los Angeles Games, where Japan grabbed seven gold medals. Ever since, the country has won at least one gold medal in all summer Olympics in which it took part.

The largest number of gold medals Japan has won at a single Games was 16 in 1964 when Tokyo played host. Japan highest medal count came at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics — 10 gold, eight silver and 14 bronze for a total of 32.

By sport, the country has claimed the most gold medals in gymnastics at 27, followed by judo (23), wrestling (20), swimming (15), athletics (5), volleyball (3) and weightlifting (2). It has won one gold each in equestrian, boxing and shooting.

Gymnast Sawao Kato owns the most gold medals for an individual Japanese athlete at eight, while Ono has the most medals at 13, including five golds.

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