WBSC and Japan Baseball leaders applaud Premier12 and its growth of international baseball

“Premier12 is extremely important to international baseball, providing the opportunity for teams to compete in a high-level, international event,” said Mr Masatake Yamanaka, President of the Baseball Federation of Japan."

World Baseball and Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari and President of the Baseball Federation of Japan Masatake Yamanaka have lauded the success of the WBSC Premier12 and baseball in Japan overall.

With two days of the WBSC Premier12 Super Round left to play before the medal matches on Sunday, Mr Fraccari and Mr Yamanaka were in agreement about how important the Premier12 is for international baseball and the growth of the sport around the world.

“Premier12 is extremely important to international baseball, providing the opportunity for teams to compete in a high-level, international event,” said Mr Masatake Yamanaka, President of the Baseball Federation of Japan. “As the Sports Director of Samurai Japan, I work on player selection and their preparation, but at the same time, together with NPB, we worked with the Tokyo Dome and ZOZO Marine Stadium to make the event very successful and provide a welcoming experience for each team and their fans who are coming here from all over the world.”

“This second edition of the Premier12 is yet another example of the continuous growth of international baseball,” said WBSC President, Riccardo Fraccari. “For this we must also praise the relationship with all professional leagues around the world; without them an event of this level would not be possible. Next summer, our athletes will be once again representing their countries, this time on the highest sport stage, the Olympic Games. The whole global baseball community is excited about it. Japan has been a wonderful home for international baseball this week and we expect to continue to showcase the best of our sport.”

Baseball was introduced in Japan in 1872 by Horace Wilson, an American Teacher at Ichiban Chugaku (now Tokyo University) who presented the game to its students. Since then, baseball has become one of the most iconic and popular activities in Japan. The NPB is Japan's largest professional sports competition in terms of television ratings and spectators, that’s why baseball is expected to be one of the most important events during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

It is the second time for the WBSC Premier12 to feature in Japan after the 2015 Opening Game and Finals were held here at Sapporo Dome and Tokyo Dome respectively. The top international baseball competition in recent years, the Premier12 is the perfect lead in to what will be the historic return of baseball to the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.


Efren Navarro: “This is historic for Mexico”

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Clark hit a clutch home run in the ninth inning to tie the game, while Navarro hit the game-winning RBI single in the tenth to send Mexico to the Olympics
Mexico defeated today USA, 3-2, in ten innings in a great team effort. However, the game had two heroes: Matt Clark and Efren Navarro.

“Qualify for the first time for the Olympic Games is historic for Mexico,” said Navarro, who hit the game-winning RBI single in the tenth to send Mexico to the Olympics, during the post-game interview.

“It’s a great honour. I respect a lot USA, they have great prospects that will be soon in the Major Leagues, but tonight was our night.”

“We all grow up dreaming on defending your country and playing in the Olympics. And being the first time for Mexico it’s such an honour for us and for the fans.”

Asked about the game-winning hit, Navarro said: “First we must credit the team. Our pitchers, the lineup, Clark, who homered to keep us in the game. Every at-bat is very important, I just tried to fight, to play for the team and thanks god I could do it.”

“We’re going to the Olympics,” said Clark, who tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a solo dinger. “You can’t put it in words, is such a great achievement as a country, as players, as coaches… everybody that’s involved back home, the fans. It’s going to be an amazing experience for everybody to be able to go there and show the world what we have.”

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Tokyo 2020 President warns men's Olympic marathon in Sapporo will have to be moved from last day

The men's marathon at next year's Olympics is set to be rescheduled so it will no longer be the last athletics event of the Games after it was controversially relocated from Tokyo to Sapporo, it was revealed today.

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori warned it would not be possible logistically to hold an event 800 kilometres away from the Japanese capital just a few hours before the Games are to end. 

"It's impossible as there is the Closing Ceremony," Mori said during a meeting today with Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki to discuss moving the marathon and race walks to the city.

"The schedule will change greatly."

One option could be to hold the men and women's marathons on the same day.

The women's race is currently scheduled for August 2. 

The late decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the marathon and race walk events has provoked widespread criticism in Japan, led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. 

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has been a fierce critic of the IOC plan to move the marathon and race walks from the Japanese capital to Sapporo due to concerns of the heat ©Getty Images
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has been a fierce critic of the IOC plan to move the marathon and race walks from the Japanese capital to Sapporo due to concerns of the heat ©Getty Images

The Japan Association of Athletics Federations (JAAF) are the latest group to hit out at the plan.

"It's extremely regrettable that [the venues] have been changed at this time," Kazunori Asaba, a senior executive with the JAAF and head of its Training Committee, told Japanese agency Kyodo News.

"It's like the athletes who had been training for many years to climb Everest were told just nine months before they would go to a different mountain."

Former elite marathon runner Toshihiko Seko, who had been part of the joint Tokyo 2020-JAAF Committee coordinating the course to be used next year, claimed the decision to move the events was not done to help the athletes. 

"That's not an 'athlete first [plan],'" Seko, winner of the Boston Marathon in 1981 and 1987 and London Marathon in 1986, told Kyodo News.

"We hear that [the temperature] was about 34, 35 degrees when [Mizuki] Noguchi won gold at the Athens Olympics [in 2004]. 

"And there have been many other cases that [Olympics] were held in the heat."

Japan's Mizuki Noguchi won the women's Olympic marathon at Athens 2004 in hot conditions ©Getty Images
Japan's Mizuki Noguchi won the women's Olympic marathon at Athens 2004 in hot conditions ©Getty Images

Having been forced to concede that the marathons will be moved from Tokyo, Seko is now campaigning for the men's race to retain its traditional position as the last event on the athletics programme.

"Hopefully, [the men's race] will be hosted on the final day, then we'll have the podium ceremony before the Closing Ceremony," Seko, who represented Japan in the marathon at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in Los Angeles and Seoul, said. 

"That's what I think is ideal."

A working group is being formed by the IOC, including representatives from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to coordinate the arrangements for the Olympic marathon and race walks after they were moved from Tokyo to Sapporo. 

The group's most important task will be to confirm the courses they plan to use.

It has been widely assumed that the marathon course will be based on the annual Hokkaido Marathon. 

But Tadasu Kawano, the director of long distance and marathon at JAAF, has warned the IAAF may seek a different course.

"It's a personal impression," Kawano told Kyodo News, 

"But looking at the trend of the IAAF in recent years, I think there is a higher possibility they would host the races in a circular course."

The annual Hokkaido Marathon could form the basis for the Olympic marathons in Sapporo ©Getty Images
The annual Hokkaido Marathon could form the basis for the Olympic marathons in Sapporo ©Getty Images

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto today urged Tokyo 2020 to finalise the arrangements quickly.

"We hope the Organising Committee decides the schedule and course soon, and gives attention to reducing the impact on the lives of our citizens as they make arrangements," Akimoto told Kyodo News.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto is due to visit Sapporo tomorrow to discuss arrangements. 

Mori promised that the cost of hosting the events will not have not have to be paid by Sapporo.

"The marathon is the showpiece of the Games," Mori told Governor Suzuki during their meeting.

"I'd like to work together. 

"I don't want the expenses to be a burden on Hokkaido."

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KALIEMA ANTOMARCHI SECOND EVER CUBAN TO WIN A GRAND SLAM

Cuba have won 38 Grand Slam medals since the foundation of the IJF World Tour in 2009, only four gold medals and those four were captured in the last 365 days. Kaliema Antomarchi became the second ever of her country to win a Grand Slam. Idalys Ortiz had already won three.

At the Grand Slam of Brasilia Kaliema Antomarchi defeated Welsh star Natalie Powell (GBR) after 56 seconds of golden with a ura-nage for ippon. Powell, who has won 19 Grand Prix medals, was countered in added time as Former world bronze medallist Antomarchi topped a Grand Slam medal podium for the first time and added to Cuba’s medal haul on day three. World number five Powell and world number 13 Antomarchi are always there or there abouts on the IJF stage and will no doubt renew acquaintances in the near future.

In the first semi-final four-time Grand Prix winner Chen Fei (CHN) was disqualified against Antomarchi after going out of the area to receive her third and final shido.

In the second semi-final Powell launched world number seven Anna Maria Wagner (GER) with 42 seconds left with a huge ura-nage for ippon and a place in the final.

The first bronze medal contest was won by Wagner who threw world number 11 Luise Malzahn (GER) for ippon with 62 seconds left on the clock. The Tokyo 2020 candidates travelled to the other side of the world together and ended up fighting each other in their last respective contest of the day. Wagner underlined that she has the edge over the more experienced Malzahn in the race for the Olympics with te-waza before the compatriots showed their respect for each other with a handshake and a hug.

The second bronze medal was won by two-time Olympic medallist and former world champion Audrey Tcheumeo (FRA) after an insipid display from Chen. The Chinese judoka disappointed against the out-of-form Frenchwoman who bagged a return to an IJF medal podium for the first time since July 2018 after Chen was disqualified for picking up three penalties.

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Olympics: Recyclable cardboard bed, customizable mattress for 2020 athletes

Recyclable cardboard beds and customizable mattresses for athletes to sleep on during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were unveiled this week, as organizers aim to provide comfort at the athletes village while fulfilling environmental sustainability goals.

The bed frames, made of high-resistance cardboard, can support up to about 200 kilograms, the organizers said. They come with three-part polyethylene mattresses that can be mixed and matched to suit each athlete's preferred firmness for the upper, middle and lower body, according to Japanese bedding maker Airweave Inc.

After the games, the beds and mattresses will be recycled into other paper and plastic products.

The lightweight beds will enable athletes to easily rearrange the room layout as they like, the organizers said. For extremely tall athletes, 20-centimeter extensions can be attached to the 210 cm by 90 cm bed frames.

"Sleep determines (the athlete's) performance the following day," said Airweave President and CEO Motokuni Takaoka. The company is considering how to provide personalized advice to athletes on adjusting the mattresses.

Airweave will supply 18,000 beds for the Olympics and 8,000 beds during the Paralympics next year. The 21 residential buildings in the athletes village, currently under construction in Tokyo's Harumi waterfront area, are expected to be completed in December this year.

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Choue promises excitement at Tokyo 2020 thanks to taekwondo's 4D cameras

World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue believes that 4D cameras being introduced for Tokyo 2020 will bring added excitement to the sport.

The technological innovation will make its debut on the biggest stage at next year's Olympic Games in the Japanese capital.

Fans and judges will be able to enjoy 360 degree replays of the athletes' moves thanks to the 4D camera rig.

This, it is hoped, will provide more memorable moments for supporters while also eliminating controversial moments from the judging.

"The system will excite many people, just like it excited me two years ago when we tested it for the first time," said Choue to the Korea Times.

The system will debut on the big stage at Tokyo 2020 ©World Taekwondo
The system will debut on the big stage at Tokyo 2020 ©World Taekwondo

"I'm sure of its success at Tokyo.

"Not only that, it will also make World Taekwondo's scoring system even fairer by eliminating blind spots."

The camera system was first used at the World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series in Chinese city Wuxi last year.

World Taekwondo is continuing its work to enhance the technology and may test it again before Tokyo 2020.

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Talks continue on possible joint Korean hockey team at Tokyo 2020 despite missed deadline

Talks are reportedly continuing about North and South Korea forming a unified women's hockey team at Tokyo 2020, despite the advanced stage of the qualification process.

The neighbours previously agreed to join forces in the sport for next year's Olympic Games, as well as in women's basketball, judo and rowing.

But no progress has been made in hockey, and South Korea competed alone at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Series Finals tournament in Ireland in June, part of the Tokyo 2020 qualification pathway.

They came through successfully and now face a two-leg clash with Spain in Valencia next month, where the winners will reach the Games.

Kyodo News reported that an FIH deadline of yesterday to apply for a joint team had been missed, with sources claiming this marked the end of the road.

Should South Korea qualify, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could then approve a unified squad.

Talks are reportedly ongoing between the IOC and the National Olympic Committees in both North and South Korea.

FIH chief executive Thierry Weil said to Kyodo News that if South Korea qualifies, the final decision on the joint team would be down to the IOC.

However, South Korea have reportedly heard nothing from North Korea when trying to organise combined training sessions.

The IOC is keen to encourage joint sports teams on the Korean peninsula as a way of promoting peace between the two nations, who technically remain at war.

North Korea competed at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in the South after the country's leader Kim Jong-un announced that the secretive state would take part.

Korea formed a unified women's ice hockey team at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images
Korea formed a unified women's ice hockey team at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images

Both Koreas marched together under a unified flag at the Opening Ceremony and also fielded a joint women's ice hockey team.

There are now tentative plans for a joint-Korean bid for the 2032 Summer Olympics, a prospect IOC President Thomas Bach told insidethegames he "welcomes very much".

North Korean participation dominated the build-up to Pyeongchang 2018 following security concerns over missile tests and nuclear threats in the North.

Bach later admitted that the Games came close to being cancelled over safety fears, with Kim exchanging fierce rhetoric with United States President Donald Trump.

Further initiatives in Pyeongchang saw a squad of cheerleaders from the North deployed and, arguably most significantly of all, a high-level North Korean delegation travelled which included Kim Yo-jong – the sister of the leader. 

In March 2018, Bach met with Jong-un in Pyongyang and discussions began on North Korean participation at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Games.

Unified Korean teams were then selected for last year's Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, in dragon boat racing, lightweight rowing and women's basketball.

The unified Korean dragon boat team made history as they claimed gold in the women's 500 metres race. 

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Anish Bhanwala, Adarsh Singh and Anhad Jawanda Miss Out on Finals in Shooting World Cup

Rio de Janeiro: India missed out on an Olympic quota in the men's 25m rapid fire pistol after the young trio of Anish Bhanwala, Adarsh Singh and Anhad Jawanda failed to enter the finals in the World Cup here.

Anish shot a rapid fire round of 286 to go with his precision round of 291 for a total of 577, landing him an 18th-place finish. Adarsh and Ahnad shot 576 and 573 to end at the 25th and 30th spot, respectively.

Among the six finalists there were two Germans and two Chinese, both of which nations had exhausted their quota of two berths in earlier competitions.

Cuban Pupo Leuris had also secured his Tokyo quota earlier, which enabled Pakistan's Muhammad Khalil Akhtar, who shot 586 for a fifth-spot finish, to claim one of the two available quotas. The second was won by Korean Kim Junhong who finished seventh with a score of 585.

India are the table toppers of the tournament with three gold, three silver and one bronze medal.

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Canada earns Olympic berth in artistic swimming with duet gold in Lima

Jacqueline Simoneau and Claudia Holzner won the gold medal in the duet artistic swimming competition Wednesday at the Pan American Games, and earned Canada a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the process.

Simoneau, of Chambly, Que., and Holzner, of Calgary, finished first with a total score of 180.0343 points. Mexico was second with 174.3661 points, and the United States third with 170.6698 points.

Simoneau and Holzner returned to the pool later Wednesday as part of Canada’s nine-swimmer squad in team competition, with another Olympic berth on the line.

Canada swept the two events at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, with Simoneau and Karine Thomas earning duet gold and Holzner joining for the team event.

The sport was renamed from synchronized swimming to artistic swimming in 2017.

Later Wednesday, gymnast Ellie Black of Halifax looked to add to her record Pan Am medal haul. Black, Canada’s most decorated Pan Am gymnast with nine medals, will compete in the beam and floor competitions at the Villa El Salvador Sports Center.

EQUESTRIAN

Tina Irwin of Stouffville, Ont., riding Laurencio, took silver in individual dressage with a score of 77.780. Sarah Lockman of the U.S. won gold with 78.980. Irwin was part of Canada’s squad that won gold in the team dressage event on Monday and earned a berth at the 2020 Games.

“I was thrilled with the team gold but now to be on the podium individually is fantastic,” Irwin said. “It was definitely my goal, I was coming to win a medal. I was hoping for, gold but that’s okay. My horse was amazing, the whole competition.”

BADMINTON

Michelle Li of Markham, Ont., advanced to the women’s semifinals with a 2-0 (21-9, 26-24) win over Mexico’s Haramara Gaitan. Toronto’s Brian Yang of defeated Osleni Gurrero of Cuba 2-1 (21-10, 15-21, 21-13) to advance to the men’s semifinals.

Toronto’s Rachel Honderich and Kristen Tsai of Surrey, B.C., won their women’s doubles quarterfinal 2-0 (21-3, 21-3) over a team from Peru. Tsai then teamed with Nyl Yakura of Pickering, Ont., for a 2-0 (21-10, 21-14) win over a Cuban tandem on a mixed doubles quarterfinal.

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