Japanese sprinters out to boost Tokyo's Olympic bid
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Japan's two young sprint hopefuls Yoshihide Kiryu and Ryota Yamagata are hoping to catch the eye at the Moscow world championships, not only to develop their own careers but also boost Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
Kiryu, 17, is the second fastest Japanese sprinter ever and his 10.01 second run in Hiroshima in April gave him a share of the junior world record with Trinidad's Darrel Brown and American Jeffery Demps.
Koji Ito, who ran 10.00 in Bangkok 15 years ago, is the only Japanese athlete to have gone faster and Kiryu is bidding to become the first Asian to go sub-10 when the championships begin on Saturday.
"Competing in a major event such as the world championships will be an invaluable experience as I look to the future," he said in a statement issued by the Tokyo bid committee.
"Should Tokyo receive the honor of hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it would be the dream of a lifetime to inspire the world with a strong performance on my home turf."
Yamagata, a relative veteran at 21, reached the semi-finals at the London Olympics and is also knocking on the sub-10 door after clocking 10.07 last year.
"I will be in my prime during the 2020 Games so it would be an amazing experience if I can run in front all my international friends in Japan, my home country," he said.
Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, is bidding against Istanbul and Madrid for the 2020 Games, with the decision to be made in September.
"A strong performance by our track and field athletes would demonstrate to the world Japan's passion for sport, and surely give Tokyo 2020 a tremendous boost as we head towards the last sprint of the 2020 bid race," IOC Member and President of both Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda said.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)