Japan Looks to Youth at Paris Olympics after Mixed Asian Games

Hinano Kusaki celebrates on the podium after winning the Women’s Park Final at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 25.

HANGZHOU, China (AFP-Jiji) — Japan is looking to its young talent to impress at next year’s Paris Olympics after finishing a distant second in the Asian Games medals table to host China.

Japan won 52 golds in Hangzhou and 188 medals overall, down on their haul from the previous Asian Games, in Jakarta in 2018.

They were well behind China’s record-setting 201 golds.

But chef de mission Mitsugi Ogata said Sunday that Japan’s young athletes in recently added Olympic sports can do the business in Paris.

“One reason why we are happy with our athletes’ performance is that we qualified for the Paris Olympics in many events,” he said.

“We have also had some great performances from our young athletes in skateboarding, sports climbing, table tennis and so on.”

Japan won gold medals from 15-year-old skateboarder Hinano Kusaki and 16-year-old climber Sorato Anraku in Hangzhou.

Hotly tipped 13-year-old Ginwoo Onodera also showed flashes of his talent before finishing out of medal contention in men’s street skateboard.

But Japan did not do as well as in previous years in sports where they have traditionally racked up the medals.

They topped the swimming medals table ahead of China in Jakarta but finished third behind South Korea in Hangzhou, winning only five golds and 30 medals overall in the pool.

They also failed to claim gold in baseball — a Japanese national obsession.

Ogata said China, who won 383 medals overall, was too strong on home soil in many sports.

“If you’re analyzing why we won fewer medals than last time, China dominated and India did surprisingly well, so that left us with fewer medals to win,” he said.

Japan enjoyed their best-ever performance at the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics two years ago, winning 27 golds and 58 medals overall.