Sports Wrapup: Youngsters on the Rise and the Indomitable Ichiro on Display in May

Sports - June 15th, 2016
naomi-osaka

May’s Japanese sporting action saw a few fiery performances and a disappointment or two. (Bonus: perhaps the most impressive sports-related GIF you’re likely to see in the foreseeable future.)

Olympic Qualification Captain Saori Kimura produced an inspired display as the Japanese women’s volleyball team qualified for their fourth Olympics in succession. The Bronze medalists from the London Games recorded four victories and two losses during the campaign. After the girls got the two sets required against Italy, Coach Masayoshi Manabe singled out Kimura for praise, telling reporters, “She was so hot it was like there were flames coming out of her.” In gymnastics Kohei Uchimura won his eighth successive NHK trophy with ease while Ryohei Kato edged out Yusuke Tanaka to finish second, earning him a place on the plane to Rio. The other members will be confirmed in June. The women’s event was won by Asuka Teramoto, edging her closer to qualification. Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo were among the nine members selected for Rio by the badminton federation. The pair won the All-England Championships in March and are currently ranked number one in the world.

Football Shinji Okazaki’s Leicester City side completed the most memorable and unlikely triumph in the history of football after Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea clinched the Premier league title for the Foxes. The Japanese striker described the season as “a dream come true,” but said he was dissatisfied with his tally of just five league goals. Takumi Minamino also picked up a league winner’s medal. The midfielder scored 10 times as Red Bull Salzburg retained the Austrian title. There was disappointment for Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa who both lost cup finals. Honda’s AC Milan went down 1-0 to Juventus in the Italian Cup, while Kagawa’s Dortmund were defeated on penalties by Bayern Munich in Germany. Nadeshiko international Saki Kumagai scored the spot-kick for Lyon who won their third UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy. Kawasaki Frontale remain atop the J-League, a point ahead of Kashima Antlers.

Baseball A back injury to teammate Christian Yelich gave Ichiro Suzuki the opportunity to do what he does best and he responded in kind, going 10 for 13 in a three-game span for the Miami Marlins. The 42 year old is now just 40 hits away from joining Major League Baseball’s elite 3,000-hit club. Not bad for a batter who only joined the league at the age of 27. Including his career in Japan, Ichiro now has 4,238 hits in total, leaving him 18 short of Pete Rose’s all-time record. In his first league start in almost 22 months, Yu Darvish looked as though he’d never been away. The right-handed pitcher threw 51 strikes among his 91 pitches as the Texas Rangers defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2. The last time he pitched in a Major League game was in August 2014. That year he reached the 500-strikeout mark faster than any pitcher in the league’s history. On the domestic front, the Hiroshima Carp and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks lead the way in the Central and Pacific leagues.

Tennis For the second year in succession Kei Nishikori was knocked out of the French Open by a Frenchman. In 2015 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga proved too strong for “Air K” in the quarter-finals, and this time it was Richard Gasquet who defeated him 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 at the fourth round stage. In the press conference afterwards the fifth seed said the conditions were difficult, but he didn’t want to use that as an excuse, admitting that he simply didn’t play well enough. Eighteen-year-old Naomi Osaka continues to impress both on and off court. The 180cm youngster, born to a Japanese mother and American-Haitian father, reached the third round for the second Grand Slam in a row. Sixth seed Simona Halep needed three sets to get past her, winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Reflecting on her defeat Osaka said, “I played, like, one of the best players in the world and I managed to, like, worry her for a second there.” The teenager who says she was “raised by the Internet” regularly charms the press with her down-to-earth attitude.

The internet The Japanese TV show “Kasou Taishou” has been known for some pretty impressive, gravity-defying performances that make use of the help of black-costumed assistants called kurokos. Although this particular Olympic-inspired clip was recorded several years ago, it’s been recently brought back to life as a GIF. Is it the best one on the internet? We’ll leave that to you.

Main Image: Jimmie48 Photography / Shutterstock.com