JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Now comes the hard part for Japan, which is pledging to win 30 gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Japan is sure to get a “medal bounce” as the Olympic host country. But how big? China got a giant one at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Britain capitalized in 2012 in London.
Even Brazil got a slight boost two years ago in Rio de Janeiro, despite the country being dragged down by a deep recession and a massive corruption scandal.
Japan won 75 gold medals as the Asian Games closed on Sunday, second to China’s 132.
This matches Japan’s best gold-medal performance at the Asian Games in 44 years, and just three short of the 78 it won 52 years ago in Bangkok. But this was before the arrival of China as Asia’s power.
Will this translate to Tokyo where China and the United States are sure to be on top?
“This is far better than we expected,” Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of the Japan delegation, said through an interpreter. “But achieving 75 gold medals at the Asian Games doesn’t mean 30 golds at the Olympics.”
“We cannot be overconfident,” he added. “This is one of our enemies.”
The bar is high for Tokyo. Japan won only 12 gold medals two years ago, and its high mark is 16 in 2004 in Athens.
“This is not an unrealistic goal,” Yamashita said. “It was established calmly and carefully by analyzing each team and athlete.” He said results could change funding for sports and athletes in the two-year run-up to Tokyo.
Swimming earned Japan 19 gold medals — six by butterfly and freestyle swimmer Rikako Ikee — and 52 overall, two ahead of China. This is one of the country’s seven core Olympic sports along with judo, badminton, track and field, gymnastics, table tennis and wrestling.
“Our swimmers, they gave us a flying start,” Yamashita said.
Japan also won medals in all five sports being added to the Tokyo Olympics — baseball, softball, sports climbing, karate, and skateboarding.
It also had surprises, winning both field hockey gold medals — a first in any large event; gold in women’s rugby sevens and silver for men; a rare gold in women’s team badminton. All could offer promise for Tokyo.
China, Japan and South Korea dominated, as always. But several other nations closed ground slowly on the Big Three.
China had 289 overall medals with 132 gold, 92 silver and 65 bronze. Japan won 205 (75-56-74) and South Korea had 177 (49-58-70).
Japan won gold in team triathlon in the only event on Sunday just hours ahead of the closing ceremony. South Korea took silver.
The Big Three were followed in the gold-medal ranking order by: Indonesia (31), Uzbekistan (21), Iran (20) and Taiwan (17). India and Kazakhstan each had 15 followed by North Korea and Bahrain with 12.
The combined Koreas won four overall, the best good-news story of the games. The lone gold was in dragon boat racing.
A combined Koreas women’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics six month ago made headlines but did not earn a medal.
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Saturday announced preliminary plans to bid for the 2032 Olympics. Indonesia finished fourth on the medal table, taking 14 of 31 golds in local martial art pencak silat.
IOC President Thomas Bach welcomed Indonesia’s early interest, dismissing the city’s choking traffic and widespread poverty.
He said only two other countries had expressed interest — India and Germany — with formal bid still years away. The winner would be picked in 2025.
Paris holds the 2024 Olympics followed by Los Angeles in 2028.
“You see that Indonesia is on the move,” Bach said “And you see the enthusiasm of the people. It’s a very young country. This of course also makes it very interesting for the IOC.”
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP