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EDITORIAL | Javelin Champion Kitaguchi's Golden First is a Valuable Lesson of Resilience

Like Haruka Kitaguchi's gold in javelin at the World Athletics Championships, the world of sports teaches us that there is no such thing as the impossible.

With a glowing smile, Haruka Kitaguchi said, "At least for today, I'm the happiest person in the world." Even spectators in the crowd felt a joyful lift. Kitaguchi had just won the women's javelin final at the World Athletic Championship in Budapest, Hungary, on August 25. She also became the first Japanese in athletics to qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.

It was the first time in history, including the Olympics, that a Japanese female athlete has won a gold medal in a javelin competition. In these events, physique and physical strength are of paramount importance. 

Kitaguchi, who hails from Asahikawa in Hokkaido, graduated from a local high school and went on to Nihon University. But due to various complications and the absence of a mentor, her athletic career stuttered for a time. In an attempt to make it on her own, Kitaguchi traveled to the Czech Republic where she directly implored coach David Sekerak to serve as her mentor. 

On August 25, Haruka Kitaguchi stands next to a sign showing the top three finishers in the women's javelin final at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest. (© Sankei by Kento Kura)

Achieving the Impossible

In Budapest, Kitaguchi and her coach were on top of the world after working so hard together to pursue the ideal throwing technique. 

Kitaguchi's resilience made it possible for her to overcome the language barrier in an unfamiliar country. It also paved the way to the glory she is enjoying today. 

But in the world of sports, the impossible becomes possible. Take, for example, the first round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup currently being held in Okinawa and elsewhere. There on August 27, the Japanese team managed an upset win over European foe Finland

Led by NBA veteran Yuta Watanabe, Akatsuki Japan rebounded from an 18-point second-half deficit, even though it faced a height disadvantage of seven centimeters on average.

Akatsuki Japan
Guards Yuki Kawamura (left) and Keisei Tominaga are the youngest players on Akatsuki Japan's FIBA Basketball World Cup roster. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Giving Up Means Game Over

There were several heroes in the victory, including Yuki Kawamura, who scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. But it was the youngster Keisei Tominaga and his spectacular 3-point shooting who truly boosted the team's morale. With dreams of entering the NBA, Tominaga had gone off to college in the United States after graduating from high school in Aichi Prefecture. In the game, the 22-year-old gave a demonstration of the sharpshooting skills he had honed there.

Japan's amazing comeback reminded fans of a famous saying by Coach Mitsuyoshi Anzai in the super-popular manga Slam Dunk. "When you give up, that's when the game is over."

In Hungary, Kitaguchi's amazing throw of 66.73 meters came on her sixth and final throw. Without that, she would not have qualified for a medal as she had been in fourth place. Before sending the javelin soaring through the air, Kitaguchi told herself: "I am strong on the final throw, [and] I can make the throw I need."

Haruka Kitaguchi
Haruka Kitaguchi celebrates after winning the women's javelin gold medal at the 2023 World Athletics Championships on August 25 in Budapest. (ⒸSANKEI)
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Life Lessons

At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Japan men's soccer team beat both Germany and Spain. And at the Tokyo Olympics, Japan's women's basketball team won a silver medal. Likewise, at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Japan topped highly rated Ireland and Scotland.

What's the message?

If you don't give up, there is no such thing as impossible. That of course assumes that desire is backed up by the necessary preparation and effort. 

And this applies to all of us. Wouldn't it be a shame if we were to believe that these valuable lessons and words of wisdom apply only to the sports world? 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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