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Japan Off to a Strong Start at 2016 Rio Olympics

japanese olympic athlete

An unnamed Japanese Olympic athlete in Athletes Village. Photo by Mexican Olympic Committee. Image license: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Japan is off to a strong start at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and by the third day of the Games had nabbed at least one gold medal and four bronze. The four bronze medals were in judo, weightlifting, and swimming, and Hagino Kosuke claimed Japan's first gold medal of the Games in the men's 400m individual medley.

Hagino Kosuke wins Japan's first gold medal [of the Rio Summer Games]. Competing amidst high expectations, Hagino has delivered. Training hard and focused on his Olympic dream since childhood, Seto Daiya also snagged a bronze medal in swimming. Japan's Olympians have ascended the podium. [— Japan Olympic Committee official Twitter account.]

Continuing Japan's early Olympic medal haul, Kondo Ami won a bronze medal in the women's 48 kg judo event.

This is my first Olympics. While I was sad I could not achieve gold, I felt a wave of relief as soon as received the bronze […] I'm going to keep training in order to become stronger and stronger. Thanks to all of the support I have received so far.

Another female member of Japan's Olympic team helped Japan capture a medal early in the Rio Games. Competing in the women's 48 kg class, Miyake Hiromi won bronze in weightlifting.

Miyake Hiromi wins bronze in the 48 kg class of women's weightling. View her win here at the link.

Takato Naohisa won Japan's fifth medal, claiming a bronze in men's 60-kg judo.

High Expectations of More Medals for Japan

This first weekend of the Rio Games is expected to be just the start of Japan's Olympic medal haul. Japan's men's and women's swimming teams are expected to do well over the next two weeks.

Indeed, the Japan women's swimming relay team broke a Japanese record during a qualifying heat:

Uchida Miki, Ikeh Rikako, Yamaguchi Misaki, and Matsumoto Yayoi appear in the qualifiers for the women's 400-meter relay […] They broke Japan's record by more than a second [this weekend in Rio].

The team was understandably excited. Swimmer Yamaguchi Misaki tweeted:

We've reached the Olympic finals for the first time in 8 years […] I'm so happy to be able to swim with the best team [in the world]. Giving it our all so that we won't lose, and we'll end up on the podium.

Competing in Group A, the Japanese Women's Olympic basketball team has also made a strong start.

(Day 2) It's been 12 years since Athens, when Japan's women's basketball team last appeared in the Olympics. After notching a victory against Belarus, Japan's women's team advances to the next round […]

Early Losses Stun Some Japanese Olympians

Other Japanese Olympic hopefuls experienced setbacks, or had their Olympic dreams dashed. Notably, Japanese fencing star Ota Yuki, competing in what promises to be his last Olympics before retirement, was forced out on the first weekend of the Games:

Fencer Ota Yuki defeated and forced to withdraw in the first round of Men's fencing. “I have no regrets,” he said.

Japan's Men's soccer team also lost to Nigeria in its first game of the Olympics, but the team still has a chance to continue, if they can manage to win their next game:

What Happened to Women's Soccer?

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for Japanese fans occurred before the Rio Games even started. The Japan national women's soccer team, better known as “Nadeshiko Japan,” after coming in second in the 2015 World Cup, failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

The no-show has prompted criticism and soul-searching by Japanese soccer fans:

Read more of our special coverage: Joy, Disappointment and Injustice at the Rio Olympics

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