World high jump champion Mutaz Barshim will make his first appearance outside of his home country for two years at the Ready Steady Tokyo meeting, part of the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold series, in the Japanese capital on Saturday.
And what better way for the Qatari high jumper to assess his form ahead of the Tokyo Olympics than by competing at the official test event for the Games. And the presence of Japan’s top three high jumpers will ensure the competition is a genuine test for Barshim.
Since retaining his world title in sensational style in Doha at the end of 2019, Barshim has competed just once, leaping 2.25m in Doha in March this year. This weekend’s competition will be his first in Japan for almost a decade; the last time he competed there was at the 2011 Asian Championships in Kobe, which he won with 2.35m.
He may need to jump somewhere in that region again tomorrow if he is to win as he’ll be up against Japanese indoor record-holder Naoto Tobe, 2020 national champion Tomohiro Shinno who jumped 2.31m last year, and 2015 Asian champion Takashi Eto, who won in Fukuroi earlier this month with 2.30m, beating Tobe and Eto.
It’s not just the high jump that will feature the very best Japanese athletes. Both sprint hurdles races will be high-quality affairs with a high likelihood of records being broken.
Taioh Kanai is fresh from smashing the Japanese 110m hurdles record with 13.16 in Hiroshima at the end of April, moving him to second place on the Asian all-time list. But former national record-holder Shunya Takayama and national indoor record-holder Shunsuke Izumiya are also in the line-up for Sunday, as is Asian Games silver medallist Chen Kuei-Ju of Chinese Taipei.
Asuka Terada, who reduced her national 100m hurdles record to 12.96 in Hiroshima, will also be in action. She’ll take on Japanese compatriot Masumi Aoki, who last year ran a marginally wind-aided 12.87, the fastest performance ever achieved by a Japanese woman in any conditions.
When Lalu Mohamed Zohri last raced in Japan, he was rewarded with a 100m national record of 10.03. The world U20 champion from Indonesia has competed sparingly since then, but he hopes to be in contention this weekend when he lines up alongside Japanese sub-10-second sprinters Yuki Koike and Yoshihide Kiryu. Olympic 4x100m silver medallist Aska Cambridge and 2017 world champion Justin Gatlin are also in the field.
Shotaro Shiroyama, who in 2019 set a Japanese long jump record of 8.40m, will take on world U20 champion Yuki Hashioka, Australia’s 2012 world indoor silver medallist Henry Frayne, Japanese champion Hibiki Tsuha, Asian Games bronze medallist Sapwaturahman of Indonesia, and Daiki Oda. The latter scored a narrow victory over Hashioka in Hiroshima last month, but Hashioka had a foul that looked to be well beyond eight metres.
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