Tue, Aug 21, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Olympic champion Murofushi heads talented host team

DPA , TOKYO

Koji Murofushi is the best title bet for hosts Japan at the athletics world championships, but the hammer throw Olympic champion insists that the season highlight isn't about winning alone.

Murofushi said that pushing the personal limit is as important for any athlete at the championships that run from Saturday to Sept. 2 in Osaka.

"I was very much encouraged by many athletes from around the world who showed their best intentions to break their own records at the world championships," Murofushi told the Web site of the ruling body IAAF.

Murofushi won Olympic gold in 2004, but the world title still eludes him after silver in 2001 and bronze in 2003.

He will be aiming to challenge his personal best 84.86m as the star in Japan's biggest team in championship history with 81 athletes.

Murofushi was the first athletics Olympic champion for Japan besides the country's proud marathon runners, who at the worlds have been responsible for all three gold medals and 11 of the 17 Japanese medals overall.

Tsuyoshi Ogata, 34, is confident that he can run the Osaka race with some grace, living up to his motto to run without pushing himself too hard.

"I am improving every year," Ogata told Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun last month after completing the Sapporo half-marathon in one hour, three minutes and 25 seconds. "I can now move my body the way I want."

Ogata got a bronze at the 2005 worlds and now hopes that he and his teammates will deliver by coping best with the difficult conditions, with the temperature expected to be well over 30?C during the championships.

The same is to apply to Reiko Tosa in the women's race, as Japan seek their first gold at the athletics worlds since Hiromi Suzuki's marathon win in similarly difficult conditions 1997 in Athens.

A silver-medallist 2001 in Edmonton, Tosa finished in the top five in all her nine international marathons. With Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi (and world record holder Paula Radcliffe of Britain) not competing in Osaka, Tosa carries the best time of all five Japanese runners in women's marathon team at 2:22:46 hours.

Other medal contenders include 200m runner Shingo Suetsugu (bronze medallist in 2003), 400m hurdler Dai Tamesue (bronze in 2001 and 2005) and women's long jumper Kumiko Ikeda.

Suetsugu expressed his confidence to do well in front of a home crowd at Nagai stadium, saying: "I know how to peak."

Tamesue said he was not only seeking a medal, but also hoped a good result would boost the sport in his country.

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