Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympics Profile: Japan Back for More in 2012

Tower Bridge Olympic Lighting, London - July 2012

Japan is in the world's third top economy. And, arguably, it got there in record time, following utter destruction at the end of the Second World War.

In fact, only 20 years after the war it showed the world how far it had come by hosting the 1964 Summer Olympics. And not content with that, Japan hosted two more Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics of 1972 and 1998. All in just a span of 50 years after WWII.
Japan has not only proven itself an economic giant, it also displays its prowess in these Games--all of which are fruits of its resilience, technological skills and strong work ethics.
Here is a short profile of Japan and its Olympic tradition and history:
Country name: Japan
Region: Northeast Asia
Population: 127,368,088 (July 2011 estimate - 10th in the world)
Land Area: 377,915 sq km (slightly smaller than California)
Best Summer Olympics Medal Haul: 37 medals (Athens, 2004)
Best Winter Olympics Medal Haul: 10 medals (Nagano, 1998)
Notable Sports: Judo, gymnastics, wrestling, swimming, synchronized swimming, athletics, volleyball
Notable Olympians:
Tadahiro Nomura is only one among Japan's world famous judo athletes. In the Olympics, he is the only judoka to have won three gold medals in a row (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004).
Sawao Kato is the most productive Japanese Olympic gymnast of all time. He led the Japanese team to three team gold medals. In three Olympics (1968, 1972 and 1976), he has compiled a total of 12 medals (8 golds, 3 silvers, 1 bronze). Currently, he is one of roughly 10 athletes to have won eight or more Olympic gold medals.
Kosuke Kitajima is one of Japan's best known swimmers. He has won four Olympic gold medals in two Olympics. He struck Olympic gold for the men's 100m and 20m breaststroke twice in a row at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
Other Olympic facts: The Japanese Olympic Committee was founded in 1911 and Japan participated for the first time at the Games of the V Olympiad in Stockholm 1912, and the Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz in 1928.
Before hosting the Summer Olympics of 1964, Tokyo won the bid to host the games back in 1940. But because of WWII, the 1940 Games came to be known as the "Tokyo Olympics that never were."
Japan is one of only two nations to have won team Olympic gold in men`s gymnastics five times -- Japan winning it straight from 1960 to 1976 and the former Soviet Union winning in 1952, 1956, 1980, 1988 and 1992. Japan is also dominant in men's wrestling and has won medals in this discipline in every Olympics since 1952 (excluding the 1980 boycotted games).
Current 2012 Olympians: Seven Japanese Olympic athlete profiles
Notable Olympians in the 2012 London Olympics:
Hiroshi Hoketsu: An equestrian who first competed in show jumping in the 1964 Summer Games. In London 2012, Hiroshi will be the Games' oldest competitor. He was also the oldest athlete in Beijing, where he competed in 2008. At the London Games, he will be 71 years old. Hoketsu earned his spot by topping in the International Equestrian Federation's Asia-Oceania individual dressage rankings.
Japan's World Cup-winning Women's Soccer Team. So, even though the reason these ladies are in the news as of late is that they flew into London economy class, while their Japanese male counterparts came in business class, this shouldn't be all that we should be talking about these lady athletes.
What we ought to remember is how these ladies flew under the radar, surprising many top teams and upsetting everyone else in the 2011 Soccer World Cup. These London Games is their chance to show the world that they weren't a fluke and the perfect venue for Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and the rest of the members of the 2008 Olympic gold-medal U.S. Women's Soccer Team to redeem themselves.

Writer has been following the Summer Olympics since the 1970s. He has trained in the same gym alongside Olympic athletes in the Korean sport of taekwondo when it first became an Olympic demonstration and finally as an official sport in the late 80s into the 1990s.

Originally published at Yahoo! US Sports in fulfillment of Yahoo! Contributor Network Olympic 2012 Country Profile Assignment.

Photo Credit: David Iliff,  Wikipedia Commons

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