The Japan Times editors selected these domestic sports stories as the most important of 2015.
1 Brave Blossoms shock the world: Japan pulls off the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history, beating two-time champion South Africa 34-32 in its opening game with a try in the final second. The Brave Blossoms’ positive attitude and entertaining style make them a hit with fans worldwide, although not even three wins from four matches can earn them a first-ever place in the quarterfinals.
2 Hanyu unstoppable: Figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu follows up his gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics with a series of dazzling performances in 2015, winning prizes and breaking records with startling regularity. Hanyu captures the Grand Prix Final title for a third straight year — the first man ever to do so — and breaks six world records in two weeks.
3 Nadeshiko falls short: Defending champion Nadeshiko Japan advances to the final of the Women’s World Cup in Canada, only to lose to a rampant United States. The U.S. scores four goals in the opening 16 minutes, but not even a Japan fightback is enough to prevent a 5-2 defeat. In December, Nadeshiko talisman Homare Sawa announces her retirement.
4 Sumo great dies: Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi, who is ranked fifth on the all-time list of sumo titles with 24, dies at the age of 62. Kitanoumi was promoted to yokozuna at the age of 21, and competed at sumo’s highest rank in a record 63 tournaments.
5 Gymnastics drought ends: Japan wins men’s team gold at the world gymnastics championships for the first time in 37 years. Kohei Uchimura, who also wins a record sixth consecutive all-around title at the event, has an uncharacteristic fall but Japan holds on to take team gold ahead of Britain and China.
6 Sani Brown makes waves: Sixteen-year-old sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown has a breakthrough year, setting two meet records at the World Youth Championships and capturing the IAAF Rising Star Award. Sani Brown, who was born to a Japanese mother and a Ghanaian father, breaks the 200-meter record held by Usain Bolt since 2003.
7 Hawks retain title: The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks become the first team to win back-to-back NPB championships since 1992, beating the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Japan Series. Swallows outfielder Tetsuto Yamada hits three consecutive home runs in Game 3, but it is not enough to prevent the Hawks from capturing the title.
8 Nishikori keeps rising: Kei Nishikori climbs to a career high of No. 4 in the ATP world rankings, in a season that yields titles in Memphis, Barcelona and Washington. Nishikori also reaches the quarterfinals of the Australian and French Opens.
9 Sanfrecce come out on top: Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Gamba Osaka in the J. League championship final, the first since the league revamped its format to include postseason playoffs. Elsewhere, the Japan Football Association fires manager Javier Aguirre due to his involvement in a match-fixing investigation, and replaces him with Vahid Halilhodzic.
10 Basketball starts afresh: FIBA lifts Japanese basketball’s international suspension after a reform led by Japan Basketball Association president Saburo Kawabuchi. The measures include the creation of the B. League — a merger of the existing NBL and bj-league — which will begin play in 2016.
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