Judokas spreading the way.
Japan's men's judo coach Shinichi Shinohara is hoping a pair of gold medals will set the tone for a successful World Judo Championships for the host country in Tokyo next month.
Tokyo is staging the Sept. 9-13 event at Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the first time in 52 years and Japan will be looking for a major improvement from its men's judoka after it suffered the ignominy of failing to win a single gold at last year's world championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
"Hopefully we can get two gold medals on the opening day. The first day will determine which direction Japan heads in," said Shinohara, a former world champion and the Sydney Olympic over-100 kg silver medalist.
Speaking from the team's training camp in Tokyo, over 100-kg Athens Olympic champion Keiji Suzuki, who is in action on the opening day of the championships, said he wanted to at least get to the final.
"Getting to the final is the minimum job required," said Suzuki.
Takamasa Anai, who suffered a crushing loss in the men's 100-kg quarterfinals in Rotterdam before ending up with the bronze medal, said his judo was "on the up," while Kazuhiko Takahashi, who stunned Suzuki and Anai en route to winning his first title at the national championship in April said his first bout on his debut at the worlds would be crucial.
"I just want make sure I am not swallowed up by the occasion. The first match is more important than anything else," Anai added.
Anai's third-place showing and a silver medal from Hiroaki Hiraoka at 60 kg was all Japan's once dominant men could manage in Rotterdam.