With Olympic news focused on whether the Tokyo Games will happen or not, spare a thought for the thousands of athletes training hard in the hope that everything will come together. Here’s a catch-up on where Team Japan stands right now:
- Japan’s basketball teams will face a stiff challenge during the preliminary round of this summer’s Tokyo Games after being drawn into tough groups on Tuesday. Japan’s world No. 10-ranked women’s team will face the U.S. — winner of the last six Olympic golds — and France and Nigeria. The men’s squad was placed alongside not one but both finalists of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, reports Kaz Nagatsuka.
- Swimming star Rikako Ikee has played down her chance of competing at the Tokyo Games after she met the 100-meter freestyle entry standard for an April Olympic qualifier. Having taken 19 months off to fight her leukemia, Ikee now has her sights on a medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics, but the one-year delay of Tokyo 2020 has raised fans’ hopes of an Olympic debut on home soil.
- A range of sports are taking their qualifiers to the wire due to the pandemic. Rowing’s Asia and Oceania Olympic qualifier was supposed to happen last year but has been rescheduled for May in Tokyo. Artistic swimming qualifiers will also take place in May, not March, due to the state of emergency in Japan, with track and field test events in Tokyo and Sapporo scheduled for the same month.
- Olympic athletes’ diets were thrown into disarray with the arrival of the coronavirus and the ensuing disruption to training regimens. Enter food firm Ajinomoto’s Victory Project, which is advising scores of Japan’s Olympic hopefuls on how to cook up balanced kachimeshi (winning meals) that might give them the edge over their rivals when July rolls around.
- One of those kachimeshi consumers is table tennis star Mima Ito, who says she’s ready to play without fans at the Olympics, as long as it means the games still go ahead. But breaking China’s dominance will be a tall order. Chinese women have won every single singles gold since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988, but Ito believes she’s capable of springing a surprise on home turf.