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Kitaguchi spears historic bronze at World Championships

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Haruka Kitaguchi celebrates after winning the bronze medal in the women’s javelin at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Friday.

Haruka Kitaguchi won a historic bronze medal in the women’s javelin at the World Athletics Championships on Friday in Eugene, Ore., making her the first Japanese woman to make the medal podium in a field event at a global event.

Kitaguchi, the Japan record-holder, came up with a toss on 63.27 meters on the last of her six throws to finish third. Australia’s Kelsey-Lee Barber took the gold at 66.91, with American Kara Winger securing the silver with a final toss of 64.05.

“I was focused on doing what I had to do,” said Kitaguchi, who burst into tears and hugged her Czech coach David Sekerak after the medal was decided.

The 24-year-old Kitaguchi finished just 2 centimeters ahead of China’s Liu Shiying, the Tokyo Olympic champion who had a chance to overtake the Japanese on her final attempt but came up well short.

Kitaguchi had the top throw in Wednesday’s qualifying round of 64.32.

The Hokkaido native’s medal was the 13th won by a Japanese woman at a World Championships and the first since 2013. All but one of the others came in the marathon.

Kitaguchi, who set the Japan record of 66.00 in Kitakyushu in October 2019, suffered a side injury at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and finished 12th.

But she recovered this season and preceded the world championships by winning the javelin at the Diamond League meet in Paris in June, the first-ever victory by a Japanese on the elite circuit. She came into the meet ranked sixth in the world.