Japan grabs historic bronze in men's relay

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

BEIJING — Japan won the bronze medal in the men’s 4×100-meter relay at the Beijing Games on Friday, achieving the country’s best-ever Olympic result in a men’s sprint competition to earn the country its first medal in 80 years in a track event.

Naoki Tsukahara, Shingo Suetsugu, Shinji Takahira and Nobuharu Asahara clocked a season best time of 38.15 seconds to finish behind Jamaica, which cruised to the gold in a new world record of 37.10, and Trinidad and Tobago, 0.96 second behind the winners at the Bird’s Nest.

The previous best finish for Japan in the 4×100 relay at either an Olympics or a world championships was fourth place at the Athens Games four years ago.

The first time that Japan grabbed a medal in a track event was at the 1928 Amsterdam Games when Kinue Hitomi took the silver medal in the women’s 800-meter race.

“I just wanted to run in front of the 90,000 spectators at this stadium,” said 36-year-old anchor Asahara. “I didn’t know if my body would hold up but I also believed in myself. I want to say thank you to all of my teammates. This is the result of our hard work.”

Suetsugu called Japan’s bronze medal finish a victory for all of his country’s sprinters, including the many who were unable to reach the podium in the past.

“We united for this challenge. I feel that we have finally seen the fruit of all the hard work of the Japanese runners that came before us. It is a victory for Japanese sprinters. It was like a dream,” said Suetsugu, who ran the second leg.

Jamaica’s winning team featured Usain Bolt in the third leg who won his third gold medal in Beijing after triumphing in the men’s 100 and 200 and setting world records in all three events. His three titles matched the feat accomplished by American Carl Lewis at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.