Tokyo – Light Olympic The cauldron, even in a sport somewhat defunct by the coronavirus pandemic, is one of the highest honors in sports.
Big names like Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali have done so, but so is an obscure archer and a 12-year-old schoolgirl.
So predicting who will do the opening ceremony on Friday this year must be an almost impossible task, right? well consider that The New York Times correct prediction Vanderli de Lima, the marathon bronze medalist in 2016, will receive the honor. In 2012, a group of unidentified teenagers were chosen to light the cauldron, but our choice Rover Steven Redgrave’s He was the last major athlete to hold the torch, so we’re taking partial credit.
Can we make it three for three? Here are the prime candidates — all of them Japanese, naturally — to play the most prominent role in Friday’s opening ceremony.
He is the most respected athlete in Japan, the holder of the world record for home runs in 868. His arrival will power fans and perhaps overcome the gloomy feeling of an empty stadium due to pandemic restrictions. But he never participated in the Olympics, and that would seem to be a disqualification.
9. Hideki Matsuyama
This year’s Masters winners are actually getting some low-key promotions for the job. “What an honor that would be,” he said. An active athlete is not usually selected, but Australia’s Kathy Freeman lighted the cauldron in Sydney in 2000, then won the 400 meters a week later.
8. Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchio
Takahashi and Noguchi won Japan’s first women’s marathon gold medals in 2000 and 2004, memorable feats in a country where long-distance running is very popular. One, or what would be a nice touch, both, can brighten the skillet.
7. Naomi Osaka
One of the biggest names in Japanese sports right now, Osaka is planning to compete in tennis and add star power to the opening ceremony. Once again, though, the tradition is against him as an active athlete.
6. 2008 Softball Team
The squad stunned the United States, the favorite in the last Olympic softball tournament until this year. Lighting the cauldron is a priority for an entire team: the 1980 U.S. hockey team did so in 2002 in Salt Lake City. If you were to pick just one player from that team, then blazing fast pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who is still pitching at age 39, would be a likely candidate.
5. Tadahiro Nomura
Judo has earned Japan 39 gold medals, the most of any sport. But only one judoka from anywhere in the world has won three gold medals: Nomura, who won an additional lightweight gold medal in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Kitajima is often called the best breaststroker of all time, the winner of both breaststroke events in 2004 and 2008, a double-double unmatched by a man or woman.
summer olympics mandatory
3. An Experienced Gymnast
Japan has won 31 golds in gymnastics, all men. any one of the savao kato (eight gold), akinori nakayama (six), Mitsuo Tsukahara (five), Takashi Ono (five), or all of them, depending on their health, can win the honor (all are in their 70s or 80s).
2. Shun Fujimoto
Fujimoto won just one gymnastics gold medal, but he did so in great style. He injured his knee during floor exercises, but despite the pain, he continued to compete to help his team win the gold medal. His often painful replays from the rings compound the injury, but he still stalls the landing.
1. Kaori Icho
Only five athletes have won the same event four times in any Olympic sport. Echo is the only woman to do so. She was unbeaten in wrestling from 2004 to 2016 and also added 10 world championships. For his achievements, he has received many honors in his native country. The biggest of them may come Friday night.