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Sprinter Yamagata comes fraction of a second from smashing 10-second barrier

Ryota Yamagata poses after winning the men's 100-meter final with a time of 10.00 seconds at the 65th Japan National Industrial Teams Championships in Osaka, on Sept. 24, 2017. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- Ryota Yamagata came literally a hundredth of a second from becoming the second Japanese sprinter to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters, posting a winning time of exactly 10:00 seconds at the 65th Japan National Industrial Teams Championships here on Sept. 24.

Yamagata is now tied for Japan's second-best time in the event, just behind 21-year-old sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu's 9.98-second record set on Sept. 9 at the Japan National University Championships -- the first time a Japanese runner had broken the 10-second barrier. Having come so close to becoming the second Japanese person to run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds, Yamagata is determined to keep trying.

Prior to the final on Sept. 24, Yamagata notched times of 10.18 seconds in the qualifier and then 10.20 seconds in the semifinal. In the final, he managed to beat his personal best by 0.03 seconds -- with a tailwind of 0.2 meters per second -- and match the previous 100-meter domestic record time set by Koji Ito at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.

After crossing the finish line, Yamagata was initially clocked at 10.01 seconds. About a minute later, the official time went up on the board: 10 seconds even. Yamagata began to smile the moment the official time was made clear, but it was a bittersweet expression. He was about 10 centimeters away from becoming the second Japanese sprinter to run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds.

"This record, with hardly any tailwind, proves that my raw potential is improving. If I maintain this momentum, I will run (100 meters) in under 10 seconds," Yamagata said.

Yamagata's reaction time of 0.138 seconds was fourth among the sprinters in the final, but he quickly ran to the front of the pack, avoiding errors he had made in the semifinal. He ran well from the halfway point onward, demonstrating that he has evolved as a sprinter. He stayed strong until the end, and managed to beat fellow Olympic medalist Shota Iizuka by 0.24 seconds.

Reflecting on the race, Yamagata said, "It was still not perfect. It would be great if I could make a few more improvements, and achieve the goal (of less than 10 seconds) at some point this season."

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