Tada, Yamagata win Olympic tickets in men’s 100m

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shuhei Tada, right, and Ryota Yamagata smile following Friday’s race in Osaka.

OSAKA — Shuhei Tada’s first national title in the men’s 100 meters came with best bonus of all — a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

Tada outsprinted a top-class field to win in 10.15 seconds at the Japan Athletics Championships on Friday in Osaka, while national record-holder Ryota Yamagata also secured an Olympic berth by placing third.

“It took a really long time to get this far,” a tearful Tada said after the race, in which he defeated all four Japanese sprinters who have broken the 10-second barrier.

The four-day meet at Yanmar Stadium Nagai, cosponsored by The Yomiuri Shimbun, is also serving as the domestic qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics. A top-three finish by those who have met the Olympic qualifying standard in their event secures a spot on the Japanese team.

Tada had met the Olympic standard of 10.05 seconds when he clocked 10.01 earlier this month in Tottori.

Bruno Dede, a student at Tokai University, finished a surprising second in a personal-best 10.19, which still leaves him short of the qualifying standard.

Yamagata, who set the Japan record of 9.95 at the same Tottori meet, won a furious battle for third place by clocking 10.27. He edged Japan’s three other sub-10-sprinters — Yuki Koike, who also was timed in 10.27, Yoshihide Kiryu (10.28) and Abdul Hakim Sanibrown (10.29).

Tada, who is most confident of his start, got out of the blocks well with a unique style that he devised on his own of hunching his back while keeping his head low.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shuhei Tada (6) wins the men’s 100 meters on Friday, followed by Dede Bruno (7) and Ryota Yamagata (4).

Tada said he worked out “an image that I lean my body forward and naturally shift my weight.”

That left Yamagata and Kiryu behind, even though those two are known as strong starters.

In the past, Tada had given up leads late in races. But with so much on the line this time, he held on through the end without any loss of speed. “I only want to look at my lane,” he said.

How to maintain full power through the finish line had been a main issue in recent years. He addressed it by trying out the different starting styles of foreign athletes, and increasing or reducing his body weight.

Nothing seemed to work and Tada fell into a slump in 2018. At that time, he became acquainted with Shintaro Sato, deputy head of Daito Bunka University’s athletics team who is now his coach.

Sato incorporated 200- and 300-meter sprints, which Tada had never done before, into the training regimen to build up his power.

Before his victory Friday night, Tada had never won a major championship on the high school, collegiate or national level. “I couldn’t sleep from three or four days ago,” he said of the tension that he could not hide prior to the race.

But he knew that all the work he had put in over the years had made him well prepared. So the sprinter, regarded as one who could ambush his better-known rivals, put on the race of his life in the most important race of his life.