With 100 days until the opening of the Rio Olympics, Japanese Olympic delegation General Director Yuji Takada has indicated his determination with respect to the country's performance, commenting, "We are looking at winning a total of 10 to 15 gold medals -- and if we happen to come home with less, I will take personal responsibility."
Takada, the men's wrestling gold medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics -- who has taken on a central role within the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC)'s Sports Committee with respect to Rio Olympics-related policies -- is presently facing both reassurances and apprehension with respect to the task at hand.
The JOC, meanwhile, has noted its own goal in terms of Rio Olympics gold medals as being 14 -- exactly twice the total of seven that were taken home from the London Olympics in 2012. The committee has also indicated that it hopes to come in third place among all countries and regions in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 in terms of the total number of gold medals won.
With Britain having come in third place at the London Olympics with 29 gold medals, the committee's maneuvering is basically that of "twice the number of gold medals in Rio (compared to that won in the London Games), and then even twice that number in Tokyo."
Japan took home 18 gold medals in 2015 at the world championships in events that are also held in the Olympics. According to data announced by the Australian Olympic Committee last year in December, this put the country in fourth place behind China at 39 gold medals, the U.S. at 35, and Russia at 25.
Taking a look at precedence, however, reveals that Japan's goal will not be an easily achievable one by any means. While Japan clinched 15 gold medals in the world championships in 2011, the team took home less than half that number from the London Olympics the following year. And while five gold medals had been won in 2011 in judo, the following year saw only a single one, taken by Kaoru Matsumoto in the women's 57-kilogram division.
At a training camp held in metropolitan Tokyo on April 26, national women's judo team coach Mitsutoshi Nanjo said in a precautionary tone, "The Olympics is something else altogether. Overseas teams come ready to fight for their lives."
And with advances in medicine and ever-increasing sophistication of information, the levels of athletes are becoming higher around the world as well. JOC Sports Department Director Naoya Yanagiya commented bluntly, "No longer is it possible to win simply by undertaking a normal level of training."
All around the globe, the strategy of "selection and concentration" is applied for Olympic athletes -- and the competition is consequently both high-level and cutthroat.
Because even the smallest error spells defeat within such an atmosphere, the ability to maintain one's optimum level of health is an athlete's best weapon. In addition to the need to recover from the exhaustion that will follow the long trip to the other side of the world for the Rio Olympics, it will also be necessary to acclimatize to the temperature differential of some 20 degrees that will have been experienced within a single day's time.
In order to help athletes recover from jet lag, the Japan Association of Athletics Federations plans to hold a training camp in the United States just prior to the Olympics.
And in order to offer the option for each individual team to acclimatize its athletes on the ground, the JOC is similarly moving ahead its scheduled Olympic team formation ceremony. While the one in 2012 was held six days before the kickoff of the games in London, the ceremony for Rio will take place on July 3 -- more than one month before the Olympics begin.