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Track and Field

Javelin Thrower Haruka Kitaguchi Captures Japan's First Gold Medal at 2023 World Championships

Haruka Kitaguchi launched her javelin 66.73 meters through the air in Budapest on her final attempt of the competition, securing her first world title.

Haruka Kitaguchi triumphed in the women's javelin final at the World Athletics Championships on Friday, August 25 in Budapest. She saved her best for last, launching her best throw on her sixth and final attempt.

On her last throw, Kitaguchi's javelin soared 66.73 meters through the air around 9:30 PM in the Hungarian capital.

And then two more athletes each had one last attempt to earn a better mark.

First up, Latvia's Anete Kocina's attempt traveled 62.02 meters. After Kocina, Colombia's Flor Denis Ruiz Hurtado had the final throw, which was recorded as 60.97.

Kitaguchi, who had the world's top throw of 2023 (67.04) at a Diamond League meet in Chorzow, Poland, on July 16, maintained her poise and didn't try to change her routine at all.

Haruka Kitaguchi
Haruka Kitaguchi in action during the women's javelin final. (Kai Pfaffenbach/REUTERS)

Kitaguchi Achieves Her Goal

"The key thing was to just believe it, not to try to change anything," Kitaguchi said, according to Reuters. "Last year my goal was just to get into the final. This time my goal was gold."

Kitaguchi commended her coach for encouraging her during the competition.

"My coach was in the stands and tried to motivate me, he was more or less screaming at me," Kitaguchi said of Czech mentor David Sekerak. "But I think everything just came together in the last attempt and it was great."

Haruka Kitaguchi
David Sekerak, Haruka Kitaguchi's coach, watches her compete in the women's javelin final in Budapest. (KYODO)

Entering the final round, Kitaguchi had the second-best throw of the evening (63.00), trailing only Kocina (63.18).

But before Kitaguchi's dramatic moment in the spotlight, Australia's Mackenzie Little on her last attempt had a 63.38-meter effort to climb into medal contention. As a result, the Hokkaido Prefecture native had dropped to fourth place in the standings.

That was before Kitaguchi responded to the challenge and launched her best effort of the night.

Haruka Kitaguchi
Haruka Kitaguchi competes in the women's javelin final.

Aiming to Raise Javelin's Popularity in Japan

Ruiz Hurtado led throughout the competition with a top mark of 65.47 until Kitaguchi's aforementioned throw. The Colombian collected the silver, while Little received the bronze. 

In July 2022, Kitaguchi secured her first world championships medal with a top throw of 63.27 meters, placing third overall.

Now, a year before the Paris Games, she has raised the stakes for herself and emerged as a top contender for the Olympic title.

Will Kitaguchi's first world title trigger a javelin boon in Japan?

Kitaguchi thinks so.

"Javelin is not a very popular event in Japan but I think it's becoming more and more popular," the upbeat 25-year-old told a news conference. "Before, nobody knew about this event but now when I got gold, I think it will be more popular."

Take a Food Journey Around the World!

Kawano Collects Bronze in 35-Kilometer Race Walk

On Thursday, Masatora Kawano earned Japan's first medal of the world championships, placing third in the men's 35-kilometer race walk. Kawano, 24, completed the race in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 12 seconds in the Hungarian capital.

Spain's Alvaro Martin claimed the gold with a national record of 2:24:30.

The nine-day meet concludes on Sunday.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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