New 100-meter national record holder Ryota Yamagata targets Olympics

Although he was not the fastest sprinter in Japan, Ryota Yamagata had been recognized by many as the strongest because of his ability to rise to the occasion on bigger stages.

Now he has both titles – and with the Tokyo Olympics set to start in a few weeks, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Three days after surprising Japanese audiences by setting a national record in the men’s 100 meters in 9.95 seconds at the Fuse Sprint in Tottori Prefecture, Yamagata told reporters in an online group interview that he was lucky. and grateful for the result.

“Although it became a birthday present for me, it was a good present for my parents because I really didn’t do anything for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day,” said Yamagata, who will have 29 years old Thursday. “(My parents) told me I shouldn’t be happy until I landed a berth at the Olympics.”

After years of frustration, his achievement gave Japanese track fans a reason to celebrate the emergence of a potential finalist at the games.

But Yamagata, who had to endure several setbacks from severe lower back, knee and right ankle injuries, tried to use those injuries to become a better sprinter.

Yamagata quoted Hiroshi Shiraishi, his longtime acupuncturist and personal trainer, as saying that injuries can serve as “coaches” to improve athletic performance.

“He said when I have pain and discomfort, these are signs of your body and you have to listen to what they are saying,” said the Hiroshima native, who has been described as ” sprint philosopher “for training alone for years before being hired. Daiki Takano as coach this year. “Injuries happen when your body isn’t properly in place, so you have to put it back. I started to think this way since I was probably in high school. “

Yamagata is the fourth Japanese sprinter to cross the 10-second barrier.  |  POOL / VIA KYODO
Yamagata is the fourth Japanese sprinter to cross the 10-second barrier. | POOL / VIA KYODO

Yamagata, who became the fourth Japanese rider to cross the 10-second mark, stressed that the road to establishing the time was not easy.

“The first time I realized I was running under 10 seconds was when I was in middle school,” Yamagata said with a smile. “But that’s when my personal best was 11.4. And I thought I would try to save 1.5 seconds to get there during my sprinting career.

“I reduced it to 10.4 or 10.5 pretty quickly. But from then on, there were roadblocks partly because of the injured. I got to 10 (seconds), but I’ve had injuries and things like that for the past two years.

“When I hurt my knees I was worried if they would hold up the speed I needed to run under 10 seconds. Having said that, I feel like I’ve finally done it. “

Yamagata won bronze with a score of 10 courses at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, which gave him momentum towards the 2019 World Championships and the Tokyo Games. But he suffered a collapsed lung in 2019.

“I’ve been seriously looking to hit the under 10 second mark since April 2013, so I wish I could have passed it a little earlier,” said Yamagata.

But as her parents suggested, Yamagata doesn’t have time to cherish her success. He is set to secure a ticket to his third Olympics by finishing third or better at the June 24-27 national championships – which will serve as Japan’s Olympic trials – at Yanmar Stadium in Osaka.

Japan’s men’s sprint pool is deeper than ever, and the Keio University alumnus will have to beat runners like Yoshihide Kiryu, who was the first Japanese to cross the 10-second barrier, and Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, which had the previous national record of 9.97.

Yamagata also knows that he was helped by a tailwind of 2.0 meters / second, which is the legal limit, to reach the 9.95 mark, and that he will have to reproduce a similar time to run for a place. in the Olympic final.

“I was helped by the wind this time,” admitted Yamagata, who was part of the silver medalist 4 × 100 relay team and reached the 100-meter semi-finals at the Rio 2016 Games.

“I should also perform well without this help. But now I have set a time that I hadn’t been able to see and I can take that as a confidence factor, and I will feel that confidence as I try to make it into the finals of the Olympics. “

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