Jeff Shaver is an ASICS Aggie who lives in the San Francisco Bay, but travels to China and Japan for business. Jeff is a good friend of mine who keeps me laughing at all the wrong times. We were lucky enough to meet up in Beijing and Mr. Shaver spent a couple of nights with the media viewing the Olympic track meet.
When Jeff told me that he was heading to Japan to drop his daughter off at university, we discussed his covering the Seiko meet for us. Here are his observations ( photo should be here shortly):
Seiko Super Track & Field Meeting – Kawasaki, Japan – October 23, 2008
From: Jeff Shaver
Seiko Super Track And Field Meeting – Kawasaki Japan – October 23, 2008
From: Jeff Shaver
Even this seasoned Tokyo traveler had difficulties finding the Todoroki Stadium. The meet website was rather sparse with information on this year’s meet but flush with past results and meet records. My 1.5 hour journey included a 15-minute walk, 3 train rides (photo included), 1 bus ride, and a 5-minute walk. Locating the stadium was easy during the final 5-minute walk since I just needed to follow the large crowd. Weather at the meet was very good flowing several days of typhoons and an earthquake. Temperature was 78F and partly cloudy which was quite pleasant for the 20,000+ spectators on hand. Fan fare in front of the stadium included an American football toss along with booths by Seiko, Mizuno, and others.
Most of the program and media information provided was in Japanese but I was able to see that the schedule was down to the minute. The opening ceremonies were an attempt at an American football pre-game show complete with cheerleader dance routines. An on-field announcer decked out in a tuxedo interviewed Usain Bolt (not competing here) who spoke a sentence in Japanese and the Japanese men’s 4x100m relay Beijing bronze medalists.
While waiting for the meet to start I wandered into a hospitality area that I assumed was for the media and other guests. I helped myself to a large bottle of Asahi, some pasta, and a hotdog on a bone. This latter delight was essentially a wiener (sausage) that had been manufactured with a large rib bone attached to its side functioning as a handle (most sporting events in Japan serve bun-less hotdogs). I could go on for pages about this tasty treat but will stop here and leave the rest to your imagination.
The press seating area provided for excellent viewing right at the finish line but unfortunately with the bright sun at our backs…not real great for PC viewing. Good bootlegged-internet access though. I made two protocol mistakes and got my and slapped both times. First mistake was not picking up my media updates “in-basket” followed by later trying to accept a media update by hand rather than allowing the courier to drop it into my in-basket. I actually made Miss Manners flinch a third time when I left my in-basket out at my seat instead of returning it to the media room. I probably won’t hear about this one until I try to leave the country.
The on-field announcer, when not bantering with the press box announcers, conducted on-field introductions to each event and orchestrated brief words from all Olympic medalists and Japanese Olympians. Beijing medalists competing in the Super Meet included Tatiana Lebedeva (W-LJ), Hyleas Fountain (W-100mH), Primus Kozmus (M-HT), Bershawn Jackson (M-400mH), and Tomasz Majewski (M-SP).
The Japanese spectators are very quiet, polite, courteous fans. A lot of clapping for all competitors but no yelling or screaming. Just like with most track meets in the US, four field events took place at once with no announcer or scoreboard updates. The lack of on-field understanding was obvious when fans were conducting high jump clapping for a men’s competitor at the same time one of the men was vaulting all which caused one of the women’s long jumpers to just stand and watch.
The field event highlight of the meet was the men’s Hammer Throw where Japanese record holder and 2004 Athens gold medalist Koji Murofushi unleashed the winning throw of 81.02 on the final throw of the competition. In third was Beijing gold medalist Primoz Kozmus of Slovakia. The fan’s were involved in all 6 of Murofushi’s throws and encouraged him tremendously during the first of only two victory laps at this meet.
The meet highlight on the track was the final event of the day…the men’s 100m billed as the final race of Nobuharu Asahara’s career. Asahara is the Japanese record 100m holder at 10.02 and anchored the Japanese bronze medal winning 4 x 100m team in Beijing. Bolt was interviewed again right before the start and wished competitors good luck, this time in speaking in English. Asahara finished third behind Great Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, but was the only other athlete besides Murofushi to take a victory lap. Asahara took his lap with his relay partners with all carrying a large banner saying “You are my Sprinter” in Japanese and English. All 4 relay members ran the 100m race finishing in third, fourth, fifth, and seventh.
Also quite eventful was the men’s 400m IH race where runners were held at the start for a very long time…possibly a TV timeout? Beijing bronze medalist Jackson appeared to give up about 180m into the race and then have a change of heart 30 meters later. He passed Japanese Olympian Narisako for the win with approximately 40m remaining.
The meet ended with a retirement ceremony for Nobuharu Asahara. A video show and slide show displaying his career highlights was followed by short but emotional speeches by his Beijing relay teammates and Usain Bolt. The majority of the fans were still in the stands for this ceremony. This was followed by a ceremonial final solo 100m dash to his waiting friends and family and then off to the interview room. Hundreds of fans waited outside the stadium a good hour after the meet ended hoping for a glimpse of the athletes.
Women’s 100m Hurdles:
1. Damu Cherry – USA - 13.07
2. Candice Davis – USA – 13.13
3. Hyleas Fountain – USA – 13.22
1. Yuko Shimizu – Japan - 4:15:51
2. Minori Hayakari – Japan - 4:16.10
3. Mika Yoshikawa – Japan - 4:17.48
Men’s 100m Hurdles:
1. Jung-Joon Kim – Korea - 13.71
2. Aubrey Herring – USA – 13.77
3. Yuji Ohashi – Japan – 13.83
W omen’s 400m:
1. Miriam Barnes – USA – 53.18
2. Satomi Kubokura – Japan – 53.91
3. Maris Magi – Estonia – 53.99
1. Marlon Devonish – GBR – 20.78
2. Hitoshi Saito – Japan – 20.83
3. Brendan Christian – ANT – 20.94
Men’s 400m Hurdles:
1. Bershawn Jackson – USA – 49.33
2. Kenji Narisako – Japan – 49.68
3. Takayuki Koike – Japan – 50.02
1. Chisato Fukushima – Japan – 11.70
2. Candice Davis – USA – 11.89
3. Momoko Takahashi - Japan – 11.90
1. Harry Aikines-Aryeetey – GBR – 10.19
2. Michael Rodgers – USA - 10.26
3. Nobuharu Asahara – Japan – 10.37
Men’s Shot Put:
1. Tomasz Majewski – Poland – 19.63
2. Yuriy Bilonog – Ukraine – 17.66
3. Tadashi Ohashi - Japan – 17.31
Men’s High Jump:
1. Donald Thomas – Bahamas – 2.24
2. Naoyuki Daigo – Japan – 2.21
3. Hiromi Takahari – Japan – 2.18
Men’s Hammer Throw:
1. Koji Murofushi – Japan – 81.02 (won on final throw of the competition)
2. Krisztian Pars – Hungary – 80.67
3. Primoz Kozmus – Slovakia – 78.59
Women’s Long Jump:
1. Tatiana Lebedeva – Russia – 6.81 (5 best jumps of the competition)
2. Kumiko Ikeda – Japan – 6.45
3. Hyleas Fountain – USA – 6.23
Men’s Pole Vault:
1. Derek Miles – USA – 5.60
2. Daichi Sawano – Japan – 5.60
3. Leonid Andreev – UZB – 5.40