World javelin champion Kitaguchi lays down marker in Tokyo

olympics19 May 2024 11:11| © AFP
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Haruka Kitaguchi © Gallo Images

Women's javelin world champion Haruka Kitaguchi of Japan said she is beginning to find form ahead of the Paris Olympics, after winning at the Golden Grand Prix in Tokyo on Sunday.

The 26-year-old launched a final throw of 63.45m to jump into first place ahead of Colombia's Flor Denis Ruiz Hurtado on 62.06m and New Zealand's Tori Peeters on 61.26m.

Kitaguchi also beat Ruiz Hurtado with her final effort last year in Budapest to become the first Japanese woman ever to win a world championship in a field event.

She followed that up by triumphing at the 2023 Diamond League finals and she is aiming for more success at the Paris Games in just over two months' time.

"I've been able to work on my physical conditioning for the past two weeks and it feels like I'm starting to get back into shape," said Kitaguchi.

"I'm happy that I won in the end but I would have liked to have thrown 63 a little earlier."

Kitaguchi will be competing at her second Olympics after finishing 12th at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games three years ago.

China's Liu Shiying won Olympic gold with a throw of 66.34m ahead of Poland's Maria Andrejczyk on 64.61m and Australia's Kelsey-Lee Barber on 64.56m.

"I don't think my throws today would be good enough to win me a medal (at the Paris Olympics) but I want to prepare over the next two or three weeks so that I'm able to get one," said Kitaguchi.

Kitaguchi will be Japan's main athletics medal hope in Paris and she will also be in the spotlight when Tokyo hosts the world championships next year.

Kitaguchi has said she wants to help popularise javelin in Japan and she was happy with the turnout for Sunday's event.

"There were so many fans here today that it made you forget you were in Japan," she said.

"Lots of fans clapped when I asked them to and it was nice and noisy. I'm very happy."