Jiji-Japan NewsLONDON — The Japan men’s 4x100-meter relay team, following up on its historic silver medal at the Rio Olympics, captured the bronze at the world championships on Saturday night in London.
Shuhei Tada, Shota Iizuka, Yoshihide Kiryu and Kenji Fujimitsu finished third in 38.04 seconds behind gold-medal-winning and host Britain and the United States, giving Japan a medal in the event for the first time at a world championships.
It was Japan’s only medal at the meet, with one day to go.
For 21-year-old Kiryu, making the podium helped to make up for failing to qualify for Japan’s team in the individual sprints. “I came here just to run the relay, so I wanted to win a medal no matter what,” said Kiryu, who is No. 2 on the all-time Japan list in the 100 meters.
Kiryu and Iizuka were both members of the 4x100 team that won a silver last summer at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Aska Cambridge, who was also a member of that squad, ran in the qualifying heat in London, but was replaced by Fujimitsu for the final.
“To get [a medal] two times in a row is huge,” said Iizuka, 26, a semifinalist in the 200 meters. “I think this raises the prominence of athletics heading into the Tokyo Olympics [in 2020].”
Fujimitsu, who ran the anchor leg, was also limited to relay duty at the meet. He said he was encouraged after seeing the exchange between Tada and Iizuka.
“I was hoping to get a chance to run, and I got it,” the 31-year-old veteran said. “When I saw the baton pass between the first and second runners, I got the feeling, ‘We can do it.’ I felt so good while I was running.”
Tada, a 21-year-old collegian who made the 100 semifinals in his world championships debut, said he felt the pressure of living up to the expectations after Rio.
“As it’s the year after winning a silver medal, I felt a lot of pressure,” Tada said. “It was my first time on the relay team, so I felt some anxiety, but I had faith in Iizuka when I gave him the baton.”Speech