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Olympic Medalists Still Busy Celebrating

January 30, 2001
Swimmer Mayumi Narita, winner of six gold medals at the Palalympics. (PANA)

After returning home, Japanese medalists from the recent Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sydney have been busy receiving various honors in recognition of their achievements. Among these athletes are marathon runner Naoko Takahashi, judoka Ryoko Tamura, and swimmer Yasuko Tajima. These three have even been nominated in connection with awards for trend-setting new words and phrases--Takahashi for her nickname "Q-chan"; Tamura for her declaration, "At best, gold; at worst, gold"; and Tajima for uttering "Meccha kuyashii!" ("I'm so disappointed") after she came up just short of gold.

Takahashi Showered with Accolades
Particularly in the spotlight as a heroine upon her triumphant return has been Naoko Takahashi, who in winning the marathon become Japan's first-ever gold medalist in women's track & field. As well as the national People's Honor Award, she received similar honor awards from Gifu Prefecture, her birthplace, Osaka, where she attended college, and Chiba Prefecture, where she currently lives. She also received awards for best dresser in glasses in honor of the memorable moment in which she tossed away her sunglasses mid-race, and also for best dresser in the sports category. Takahashi has been in great demand, and the runner has been invited to participate in numerous local races. Perhaps as a result of all these activities, she injured her right knee during training for her main forte, racing. As a result, she had to withdraw from a scheduled appearance in the International Chiba Ekiden (long-distance relay), which was held on November 23. Even so, with her sights set on establishing a new world record in overseas marathons in spring and autumn 2001, race organizers are already scrambling to entice Takahashi to participate in their events once she is fit again.

Upon winning her first Olympic gold medal at the third attempt, Ryoko Tamura--or "Yawara-chan," as she is affectionately known, after the heroine of a popular judo cartoon--has been busy with such engagements as receiving commendation from the prime minister. After the Olympics, Tamura won an unprecedented eleventh straight title at the Fukuoka Women's Judo Championships. This milestone came 10 years after she won her first international event at the age of 15. "Yawara-chan" has been at the top of the judo world for a long time and is a hugely popular figure.

Yasuko Tajima captured the hearts of fans following her race, in which she earned a silver medal, when she said, "I'm so bummed. I wanted gold!" This frank expression of emotion was seen as typical of a modern young woman and earned her an invitation to, among other things, serve as the chief of a fire station for a day.

Swimmer Mayumi Narita, who earned six gold medals in the Paralympics, received a commendation from the prime minister. In appealing strongly for the cause of disabled sports, Narita earned great admiration at home. Though the previous Paralympic Games in Atlanta received hardly any domestic media attention, this time around the games were covered on a daily basis, due in large part to Narita's performance. Following the games, Narita has been busy with television and lecture appearances.

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.