TOKYO — Lighting the Olympic caldron, even at a Games considerably deflated by the coronavirus pandemic, is likely one of the highest honors in sport.
Names as large as Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali have carried out it, however so have an obscure archer and a 12-year-old schoolgirl.
So predicting who will do it at this 12 months’s opening ceremony on Friday have to be a close to unimaginable process, proper? Well contemplate that The New York Times accurately predicted in 2016 that Vanderlei de Lima, a marathon bronze medalist, would get the honour. In 2012, a bunch of unknown youngsters have been chosen to mild the caldron, however our choose of the rower Steven Redgrave was the final distinguished athlete to carry the torch, so we’re taking partial credit score.
Can we make it three for 3? Here are the main candidates — all of them Japanese, naturally — to take probably the most distinguished position in Friday’s opening ceremony.
He is probably the most revered athlete in Japan, holder of the world report for residence runs at 868. His arrival would electrify followers and maybe transcend the somber feeling of an empty stadium due to pandemic restrictions. But he by no means participated in an Olympics, and that will appear to be disqualifying.
9. Hideki Matsuyama
This 12 months’s Masters winner is definitely performing some low-key campaigning for the job. “What an honor that would be,” he mentioned. An energetic athlete just isn’t usually chosen, however Cathy Freeman of Australia did mild the caldron in Sydney in 2000, then went on to win the 400 meters every week later
8. Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchi
Takahashi and Noguchi received Japan’s first girls’s marathon golds again to again in 2000 and 2004, memorable feats in a rustic the place long-distance operating could be very widespread. One, or in what can be a pleasant contact, each, may mild the caldron.
7. Naomi Osaka
One of the largest names in Japanese sports activities proper now, Osaka plans to take part within the tennis competitors and would add star energy to the opening ceremony. Once once more, although, as an energetic athlete she has custom towards her.
6. The 2008 softball crew
This squad shocked the favored United States within the final Olympic softball match till this 12 months. There is priority for a whole crew to mild the caldron: The 1980 U.S. hockey crew did so in Salt Lake City in 2002. If you need to choose only one participant from that crew, the blazing quick pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who remains to be pitching at age 39, can be a possible candidate.
5. Tadahiro Nomura
Judo has earned Japan 39 gold medals, probably the most of any sport. But just one judoka from anyplace on the earth has received three gold medals: Nomura, who received further light-weight gold in 1996, 2000, and 2004.
Kitajima is commonly referred to as the very best breaststroker of all time, the winner of each breaststroke occasions in 2004 and 2008, a double-double that’s unmatched by a person or girl.
Summer Olympics Essentials
3. A veteran gymnast
Japan has received 31 golds in gymnastics, all by males. Any one among Sawao Kato (eight golds), Akinori Nakayama (six), Mitsuo Tsukahara (5), Takashi Ono (5), or all of them, may win the honour, relying on their well being (all are of their 70s or 80s).
2. Shun Fujimoto
Fujimoto received only one gymnastics gold medal, however he did so in legendary trend. He had injured his knee within the ground train, however regardless of nice ache, he continued to compete to assist his crew win the gold medal. His usually replayed painful dismount from the rings aggravated the damage even additional, however he nonetheless caught the touchdown.
1. Kaori Icho
Only 5 athletes have ever received the identical occasion 4 occasions in any Olympic sport. Icho is the one girl to take action. She was unbeatable in wrestling from 2004 to 2016, and added 10 world championships as nicely. For her achievements, she has obtained quite a few honors in her native nation. The greatest of all of them may very well be coming Friday evening.