first_imgThe International Management Group has signed up Japanese marathon runner Naoko Takahashi, 48 hours after the women’s Olympic champion got the nod to begin commercial activities, IMG officials said Wednesday. The sports management giant will manage out-of-competition commercial deals for Takahashi, the first athlete registered with the Japan Amateur Athletic Federation as a corporate team member allowed to be engaged in “professional activities.” The 28-year-old Takahashi has reportedly shown an interest in doing TV commercial appearances and other endorsements since her gold medal in Sydney in an Olympic record time. The Gifu native, who had been bound by the JAAF’s “amateur rules” until the federation’s latest move, will remain a member of the Sekisui Chemical athletics team and an employee of the company. IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESlast_img read more

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 NEW YORK – Japan’s Ai Sugiyama comfortably defeated little-known Jeon Mi Ra of South Korea in straight sets (6-3, 6-3) in the first round of the women’s singles event at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.Meanwhile, compatriot Shinobu Asagoe put up a brave fight before succumbing to Emilie Loit of France 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) but said she was pleased with her progress since being injured in July. GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESlast_img

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES OSAKA — World Boxing Council – super flyweight champion Masamori Tokuyama will put his title on the line for the seventh time against hard-hitting Japanese Katsushige Kawashima, Tokuyama’s manager said Wednesday. Hideo Kanazawa said that although the date and venue of the fight have not yet been decided, he thinks he can make a formal announcement on them next month. The 28-year-old Tokuyama, a pro- Pyongyang Korean resident of Japan, has a record of 28 wins, including eight knockouts, against two losses and a draw.last_img read more

first_imgLONDON – Bolton Wanderers have failed to acquire the services of Japan midfielder Shinji Ono from Dutch club Feyenoord, a spokesman for the English premier league indicated Thursday.Bolton manager Sam Allardyce had held talks with Ono’s agent but no progress has been made, the spokesman said. IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 Allardyce was quoted as indicating Ono will likely return to Japan.Feyenoord had accepted a bid from Urawa Reds to regain Ono’s services but the 26-year-old has been stalling the J. League club as he is keen to continue playing in Europe.Ono joined Urawa from Shimizu Shogyo high school in 1998 and played in the World Cup finals in France that year as an 18-year-old.He was transferred to Feyenoord in the summer of 2001, helping them win the UEFA Cup in his first season, and made his second World Cup appearance in the 2002 tournament co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. center_img GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESlast_img read more

first_img GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES KOBE – Japan XV was defeated by the Classic All Blacks 35-26 in an international friendly on Wednesday. The Japanese side, consisting of candidates for John Kirwan’s national squad, put up a brave fight, taking a brief 12-7 lead on a try by Kosuke Endo before falling behind 21-12 at halftime at Kobe Universiade stadium. Japan came within two points after the break but the Classic All Blacks, whose members include many former New Zealand national players, scored two consecutive tries late in the match. IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5last_img read more

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES Olympic gold-medal winner Elena Dementieva admits she is having trouble focusing on her game after the euphoria of Beijing, but losing finalist Dinara Safina has no such problems heading into this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.World No. 5 Safina is learning to clear her mind after struggling to keep a lid on her emotions earlier in her career, and is keeping her Olympic achievement in perspective as she prepares to battle a field containing six of the world’s top 10 players at Ariake Coliseum.center_img “The Olympic medal means a lot, but as I have had so much success this year getting to the final of the French Open, it is tough to compare the French Open and the Olympics,” Safina said.“Success this year came a little bit unexpectedly, but maybe it was because I was always tough on myself. I wanted to do well, and maybe I was putting too much pressure on myself.“At one point I said, ‘OK, just let it go, relax and let’s see what happens.’ I started to play my game, sticking to my routine and working hard day by day.”For Dementieva, letting go has not been so easy.The world No. 4 followed up her success in Beijing with a semifinal defeat at the U.S. Open, and admits she was suffering from an Olympic hangover at Flushing Meadows.“The thing is it was quite difficult to play in the U.S. Open because there was not enough time to rest and recover, and it was a very special moment in my career so I couldn’t think about anything else,” she said.“Since the first time I played, I really wanted to win the gold medal. There is nothing better in sport. I was very proud for my country and for my family that I was able to do this.“I was trying to be professional afterward, but it was difficult to do so. I will never forget this moment, but I need to move on and concentrate on the rest of my career.”Vera Zvonareva won bronze to complete a clean sweep for the Russians in Beijing, and the significance of the achievement was not lost on Dementieva.“For Russia there is nothing bigger than the Olympics, and for me also,” she said.“Some players have their own opinions but that is the way I feel. That never happened before with three girls. I can’t compare the tournaments because when you play for your country it is a different feeling. There is nothing like it.”But while Dementieva revels in glory for her country, Safina is more focused on ridding her individual game of the mood swings that have characterized her career.The 22-year-old says the turning point came with a win over Dementieva in the final of the German Open in May.“In Berlin I just said I am going to do what my coach tells me, and it doesn’t matter if I win or lose,” Safina said.“If you win the match but don’t do the right thing, then you stay in the same place. There I was doing the right thing, and it just proved that I had to listen to my coach. Now I have a lot of trust in my coach and he doesn’t even have to tell me to listen to him.”The two Russians have played each other four times this year, but Dementieva plays down talk of a rivalry.“It is not about competition between me and Safina,” she said. “Everyone wants to be No. 1.“This year we had a lot of matches and some tight matches, and it is amazing how well she is playing this year. She beat most of the top-10 players, which is great for her.”Dementieva knows the strength of this year’s Japanese event could have a big effect on the world rankings, and thinks the seesaw battle for the top can only be good for tennis.“I think for the first time for a long time we have a situation where it is quite open for a few players,” she said.“I think it will be interesting for the crowd and for the players as well. We will see a lot of competition, and a lot of players can become No. 1, which is very interesting for the sport.”The tournament also holds special significance for Dementieva, marking her first success in a Tier 1 event when she beat Martina Hingis in 2006.“It is very exciting to be here and come back to this event,” she said.“I remember that tournament when I beat Martina Hingis, and it was a very special moment for me. I feel like people here support me and that is why it is always a pleasure to play here.” Morita upsets Svazay Wild-card entrant Ayumi Morita shocked world No. 19 Agnes Szavay in the first round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday, while former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo crashed out after blowing four match points at Tokyo’s Ariake Coliseum.Morita, seeded 162nd in the world, took an early lead before crumbling on service for the first set at 6-5. The 18-year-old then threw away one set point in the tiebreak to hand the initiative to her Hungarian opponent.But Morita came storming back in the second, taking a four-game lead before overcoming a late wobble to tie the match at one set each. The Gunma Prefecture native then closed out the match to win 6-7 (7-9), 7-5, 6-4 and book a second-round clash against China’s Na Li or Russian world No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova.“This is a big confidence-booster for me,” Morita said after the match. “I have had so many matches this year where I couldn’t play my best, so to be able to play like this today was great.”I was given the chance with the wild card, so I really wanted to do my best. Now I understand at this level that if you give even a little bit, you lose. You have to focus on every single point.”Aiko Nakamura failed to match her compatriot’s success, losing to Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-4.“My opponent is a top-10 player so she made very few mistakes,” Nakamura said. “I was trying to do everything I could, but I just couldn’t bring to mind how to win the shots.”Ai Sugiyama also lost her doubles match with Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia, going down 4-6, 4-6 to Vania King of the United States and Nadia Petrova of Russia.Former world No. 1 Mauresmo looked certain of overcoming Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova when she dominated the first set 6-0.But Cibulkova came back strongly to win the second 6-1, setting up a tense finale that saw the Frenchwoman fail to take advantage of three match points with the score at 5-4.Cibulkova survived to take the match into a final tiebreak, where Mauresmo again spurned the opportunity to wrap up the victory, this time with fatal consequences as she slumped to a 6-0, 1-6, 6-7 (8-10) loss.“It’s always frustrating to lose when you have match points,” she said after the match.“The last one I am still thinking about a little bit more because I didn’t make her play it. I just put the return straight out. I let myself down in the second set by letting her get back into the match.”Mauresmo, who has struggled with injuries and has seen her world ranking tumble to 23, also admitted she seriously thought about quitting the sport last year.“I was asking myself a lot of questions because I felt physically I wasn’t where I should have been,” she said. “I had doubts that I could compete, but I thought I could still do it. I still love it and I don’t feel like stopping now. Sometimes it is not going to work as well as I want, but I think if I work on my game I can improve. It’s a challenge.”Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, Mauresmo’s conqueror in the U.S. Open earlier this month, beat Israel’s Shahar Peer 6-4, 6-4 to set up a second-round clash with world No. 2 Jelena Jankovic, the highest-ranking seed in the competition.In other games, world No. 39 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia beat No. 13 Anna Chakvetadze of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, while France’s Marion Bartoli beat Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-2, 6-2. last_img read more

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES Though the presence of that horse, Vodka — Daiwa Scarlet’s biggest rival — would have undoubtedly given the win an air of sweet revenge, the victory was by no means easy. Scarlet only made it look so. “She is such a strong horse and today she was able to show that,” said rider Katsumi Ando.“She has the speed and she is able to hang in there to the end. I am so glad she could do it today,” a cloudless, nearly balmy December day that saw over 117,000 racing fans make their way to the Chiba track.Scarlet, given a “perfect” ride by Ando, pulled the others at a pace so fast it left those who dared match it in the dust.Only Admire Monarch, the least favorite who had humbly and wisely taken up a position in the far rear, was able to save face. Into the straight, Monarch had enough power left to move to the far outside from last position and romp past the others for a second-place finish. Fourth choice Air Shady finished 3/4-length later in third place. Second pick Matsurida Gogh, last year’s winner, faded to 12th place, while third choice Japan Cup winner Screen Hero just made the board in fifth place.Dream Journey garnered fourth place, with Meisho Samson unable to manage better than eighth in his final run.The win of the Arima’s 53rd running was the first for both jockey Ando and trainer Kunihide Matsuda. The Ritto-based Matsuda, no stranger to the winner’s circle, went from nearly speechless in the postrace interview to virtually unable to stop talking, as he gave detail after detail of the filly’s long road to the prestigious win.“I don’t know what to say,” he began, “but can only express my appreciation and gratitude to all the people who helped bring her to this Arima victory.”Matsuda praised rider Ando for his work, saying: “He was able to keep her in the lead the whole way. It was a perfect ride.”Racing regulations had earlier prevented Ando, when licensed only on the local circuit, from participating in the Arima.“Just being able to ride in the Arima is a great feeling, but being given a ride on the race favorite is like a dream,” the 48-year-old veteran said.Second in last year’s Arima, and second by a mere 2 cm in the fall Tennosho, Scarlet had failed to notch a group 1 race since last year’s Queen Elizabeth, the fourth in a four-race streak that had included three top-level races.From nearly unbeatable to two losses out of four this year, it was the kind of scenario that can wear, even rattle confidence, not only the horse’s but the staff’s as well. “It was important that everyone keep the hopes up,” Matsuda said, “and keep aiming to reach the top.”With keen analysis of her races, Matsuda said he realized he had to, at any cost, keep Scarlet from tensing up. He made this his aim at every step of her training from the November Tennosho, from how she entered the track during morning work to being careful not to overwork her in the slightest.Matsuda took care on Sunday as well, allowing Scarlet to leave the parade ring and enter the track with the others, unlike in the Emperor’s Cup. Despite her strength, Daiwa Scarlet is a gentle soul. “She gets lonely easily,” Ando explained, “and wonders where the others have gone if we bring her out before them, so this time we made sure not to upset her.”The effort paid off. Mounting her Sunday, Ando said, “she was a different horse from the Tennosho. She was very relaxed.”Matsuda was apparently so pleased with her performance, he expressed his desire to race Daiwa Scarlet overseas next year. “Three wins” is his goal. FUNABASHI, Chiba Pref. — Daiwa Scarlet went wire to wire Sunday in a tremendous show of strength to top the Arima Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse by a length and three-quarters and become the first filly in 37 years to capture the yearend grand finale.The chestnut Scarlet clocked 2 minutes, 31.5 seconds over the 2,500 meters of turf as she bested a field of 14, a field that for the first time in as many years failed to include the fans’ favorite for the partially ballot-chosen lineup.center_img RELATED PHOTOS Scarlet Pimpernel: Jockey Katsumi Ando waves atop Daiwa Scarlet after the filly won the Arima Kinen on Sunday. | KYODO PHOTOlast_img read more

first_imgSTRASBOURG, France (Kyodo) Ayumi Morita has advanced to the women’s singles semifinals of a WTA event for the first time in her career.The 19-year-old defeated third-seeded Chinese Peng Shuai 7-5, 6-2 in her quarterfinal match at the Strasbourg International on clay Thursday. She lost in the quarterfinals twice in 2007 and once this year at the ASB Classic in Auckland in January. GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMEScenter_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5last_img

first_img Wisdom for the ages: Veteran coach and two-time Olympian Nobuo Sato works with seven-year-old skater Rurino Tsuru at the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center on Monday. | AP PHOTO Future prospect: Teenager Eri Nishimura, a Tokyo native, won the Canadian junior title this month. | G.HSUEH/JAPANSKATES.COM GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES RELATED PHOTOS In a development that hasn’t even been acknowledged by the Japanese media, longtime coach Nobuo Sato was quietly nominated for the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame earlier this month.Sato, whose resume is both long and distinguished, was selected for consideration in the “Outstanding Contributor” category for creative impact along with Canadian choreographer Lori Nichol, the late Hans-Rudi Mauch of Switzerland and the late pair of Eva Pawlik and Rudi Seeliger from Austria. The results of the voting will be announced in the second week of February by the Hall, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colo.Among the nominees in other categories are former Swiss skater Denise Biellmann, who patented the Biellmann spin, and American Todd Eldridge, in singles, along with American pairs Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, and Canadian ice dancers Tracy Wilson and the late Rob McCall.For Sato the honor would be a fitting tribute for an association with the sport that has spanned more than 50 years. Though he is known by recent generations as a coach, he was quite a skater in his own right back in the day.Sato first put on the blades as an 11-year-old growing up in the post-war era in Osaka.“I started skating on New Year’s Day when I was in the fifth grade,” Sato recalled this week during an interview in Shin-Yokohama. “During summer vacation the following year I began skating seriously and had a personal coach for the first time.”It was the beginning of a journey that would see him win the Japan singles title a record 10 straight years (1956-65), skate in two Olympics (1960, 1964) and six world championships.The soft-spoken Sato, who will coach Takahiko Kozuka at the Vancouver Olympics, placed eighth at the Innsbruck Games in ’64 and fourth at the ’65 worlds.Sato went on to marry fellow Olympic skater Kumiko Okawa, who participated in the ’64 and ’68 Games. Their daughter Yuka was the 1994 world champion and also represented Japan in two Olympics (1992, 1994) herself.Sato, who also coaches Yukari Nakano, says he learned of his nomination in a letter from the Hall.“I received a letter and I was surprised,” he said. “But I hear there are many contenders this year, so I don’t know what will happen.“You should have interviewed me after the election was finalized,” he added with a laugh.When asked what it would mean to him to make the Hall of Fame, Sato paused momentarily then said, “It is a dream. I’ve visited Colorado Springs twice, and I was like, ‘Wow, there are so many great skaters in the world.’ “Even though the skating community stretches around the world, it inevitably is smaller than it appears. In an ironic twist, Sato will coach against Yuka in Vancouver when she leads two-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott at the Winter Games.What will it feel like to be going up against his daughter in such a high-profile event?“It’s wonderful,” he said. “I’m very glad. I don’t regard this as a competition between us. I have seen Abbott skating. He is a good skater. He was a good skater before my daughter started coaching him. With a year of hard work between them, he has improved more.”In addition to coaching Yuka, Sato has also mentored Miki Ando and Fumie Suguri. The 68-year-old continues to work with young prospects in his role as the director of coaching at the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center.Yuka is proud of her father’s impact on skating in Japan.“For him to be nominated to the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor,” she wrote in an e-mail from her Michigan home this week. “I am so happy for my father to be recognized after all these years of his dedication to the sport of figure skating.”Coaching against her father in the Olympics will no doubt mean something special to both of them.“It will be a great honor for me to share the boards with my father at the Vancouver Olympic Games. I wish both of our skaters all the best.”More drama: As if Mao Asada needed anymore turmoil after what has already been a turbulent season, it arrived last week with news that her coach Tatiana Tarasova would be unable to attend the Four Continents Championships — where Mao won on Friday — after being hospitalized with high blood pressure following the European championships earlier this month.This development clearly makes Tarasova’s status for Vancouver questionable. Going against a young field in Jeonju, South Korea, Mao came from behind to beat compatriot Akiko Suzuki for the title in a final tuneup before the Olympics.Mao won the 2008 world title in Sweden without a full-time coach by her side, and may have to reprise that in Canada.An e-mail sent to Mao’s agent, Mariko Wada of IMG, this week asking for an update on Tarasova’s condition, was not replied to.New prospect: As the Asian boom in skating continued last week with the selection of Mirai Nagasu to the U.S. Olympic team, another up-and-comer appeared on the scene. Fifteen-year-old Eri Nishimura, a Tokyo native, won the Canadian junior championship in mid-January.Nishimura, who used to skate for the Meiji Jingu club, went to Canada to train with coaches Doug Leigh and Lee Barkell two years ago and liked it so much that she decided to stay. She is now in the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship, and therefore was allowed to participate in the junior nationals.Nishimura lives in Barrie, Ontario, and will skate for Canada on the Junior Grand Prix circuit next season.It’s not out of the question that in the near future both the U.S. and Canadian senior champions could be of Japanese descent.Ticket giveaway: As Olympic fever continues to build, a new Japanese movie entitled “Coach” about a former figure skater who once had Olympic dreams is set to hit theaters. The film includes appearances by both Miki Ando and 2006 gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa.The Japan Times will be giving away free tickets to see the film, which opens Feb. 6 throughout the country. Details on the giveaway will be published soon. IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5last_img read more

first_img doping, IAAF, Sergey Bubka KEYWORDS GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES RELATED PHOTOS Bubka will take on another former great of the sport in Britain’s Sebastian Coe in Wednesday’s ballot, which has been overshadowed by allegations of wholesale doping in athletics over the last three weeks.The six-time world champion said that far from being negligent when faced with evidence of doping, the International Association of Athletics Federation had, in fact, led the way in the fight.“We were first with biological athlete passports, we try to use scientific knowledge. We invest more than any other federation and we will continue,” he told Reuters in Beijing.“We are in favour of life bans, four-year bans, and this we will continue to do. But we must do it according to the regulations. If we need to strengthen them, we will strengthen them.”While Coe is committed to moving towards a fully independent anti-doping agency to deal with violations in international athletics, Bubka said he would work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to chart the best way forward.“WADA play this role and invest a lot of money. We need to assess, we need to consult. One of the main subjects for the IAAF is which way we go,” he said.“Which system is more efficient and more successful.“This is very important and the main task of the future IAAF president,” he added.The 51-year-old made his comments at a lunch to announce a new event for next year set up by French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie in his hometown of Clermont-Ferrand.Bubka said the event echoed work he had done in Ukraine when he was active to bring athletics to the people, which would be a key part of his strategy to popularize the sport if he was elected.“Today we can approach (people) on the square, on the street, indoor, with music,” he said.“It must be spectacular, it must be a show. And in this way to attract the youth, to bring them to sport. To encourage them to be with us.”Some media reports have suggested that Bubka is seriously lagging behind Coe in the support of the more than 200 national federations that will elect the new president.Bubka pointed out that some federations had already broken with announcements for Coe made by blocs of nations they were part of and would put his trust in Wednesday’s ballot.“For me, it’s more important when it is a real vote. This is guessing, this is games. Normally I prefer a fair game, like in sport,” he said.“I feel very well, I am very confident. I feel very strong, I have big support from members of our federations and I’m confident for Aug. 19.” center_img Beijing – Former Olympic champion Sergey Bubka thinks the fight against doping is the main task facing whoever triumphs in Wednesday’s IAAF presidential election, a vote he is still confident he will win.Flanked by fellow Ukrainian sporting greats in soccer player Andriy Shevchenko and boxer Vitali Klitschko, Bubka defended his sport’s record in the battle against drug cheats but said clearly more needed to be done. Ukrainian pole vault great Sergey Bubka is standing against former track star Sebastian Coe in Wednesday’s IAAF presidential election. | AP IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5last_img read more