NAGOYA – Japan’s 2004 Olympic hammer throw champion Koji Murofushi hinted at his retirement on Friday after placing 12th in men’s final at the National Athletics Championships, a result that ended his hopes of competing at the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The 41-year-old veteran was returning to the nationals after a two-year absence and seeking a 21st title, but he came up well short of the Rio qualifying mark failing to reach the fourth round of throws.
Murofushi, bidding for his fifth consecutive Olympic Games and third Olympic medal, had to throw at least 77 meters to meet the Rio 2016 qualifying mark, but miserable weather at Paloma Mizuho Stadium and his truncated preparation hurt his chances.
“The result was 64 meters but it came from me giving my best. My preparation period was short but I also feel (I have reached) my physical limit,” said Murofushi.
“I feel it was good to compete in these championships again after a while out, but I’d like to wish my best for the fellow (younger) throwers from now on.”
He added: “I think my physical limitations will make it difficult for me to aim for the very top, like winning medals in the Olympics and the world championships (in the future). I’ll keep training on a daily basis but I think it’s at a different level to aiming for the top and the Olympics.”
Ryota Kashiwamura took over Murofushi’s mantle, winning his first Japan title with a throw of 70.81 meters.
Another athlete used to dominating these championships, Yuzo Kanemaru, shared Murofushi’s fate in the Nagoya rain. Looking for his 12th consecutive 400m title, the 28-year-old from Osaka Prefecture could not do enough to overcome a foot injury that had hampered his training. He finished sixth in his heat and did not move on.
“My body just did not respond to what I wanted it to do. I haven’t got my head around (the fact I didn’t qualify),” he said.
For Japan’s Olympic track and field prospects, it was not all bad news. Ayuko Suzuki booked her place at the Rio Games with a solid 31-minute, 18.73-second victory in the women’s 10,000-meter race.
The diminutive Suzuki managed to break her pursuers’ spirits with two laps to go, and ran away with the victory.
“I never stopped training, I kept building things up toward this goal. I headed into this meeting thinking I had done everything I needed,” she said after the race.
“I think I have better concentration ahead of the races than average and I hope I can exercise this (mindset) at the Olympics too.”
With the wet track conditions, fast times were elusive for the big-gun sprinters. Aska Cambridge came away with the first day’s 100-meter bragging rights when he won his semifinal in a time of 10.25 seconds. The second semifinal was won by Ryota Yamagata (10.26) who made major improvements on his earlier heat time. Yoshihide Kiryu (10.29) picked up 0.08 seconds in his second run of the day to finish close behind Yamagata.
Earlier in the day, the women’s hammer participants saw the worst of the weather, and in almost comical scenes, many of the athletes chose to walk to the throwing cage sheltering from the downpour under umbrellas.
It was Akane Watanabe who managed the conditions best, she booked a 65.33-meter distance on her fourth attempt, enough to get the win by just over a meter.
“Thanks to everyone who supported me,” Watanabe said. “The fact I have won at this, the 100th anniversary championships, I am really happy. The start of the competition was very difficult with the rain, but I made my adjustments and it worked.”
Moeko Kyotani cleared 1.78 meters on her third attempt to win the women’s high jump, while Konomi Kai leapt 6.36 meters to take the women’s long jump title.
Suguru Osako won the men’s 10,000 in 28:07.44 and Daichi Sawano claimed the men’s pole vault with a 5.60-meter clearance — but none of the marks met Olympic qualifying standards.
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