JOC: Sex scandal didn’t harm Japan’s Asian Games display

A scandal involving basketball players caught paying for prostitutes was “a huge shock” but it didn’t adversely impact Japan’s performance, according the country’s delegation head.

Yasuhiro Yamashita...“Our results here are truly something to celebrate.”   -  AFP

The head of Japan’s Asian Games delegation said on Sunday that a scandal involving basketball players caught paying for prostitutes had no negative impact on the country’s overall performance in Jakarta.

“It was unprofessional and unpalatable behaviour,” Yasuhiro Yamashita, a senior executive board member with the Japanese Olympic Committee, told a news conference after Japan finished second behind China with 75 gold, 56 silver and 74 bronze medals. “Their conduct betrays public confidence in the athletes and sport as a whole,” he added.

“It was a huge shock to us and was a setback but I don’t think it had any negative impact overall. The rest of the players stepped up, and fought with great pride and gave everything for the shirt.”

Embarrassment

The four Japanese basketball players — Yuya Nagayoshi, Takuya Hashimoto, Takuma Sato and Keita Imamura — were sent home in disgrace after being spotted in a notorious red light district of Jakarta, and subsequently banned for a year. Dressed in black suits at a press conference after their return home, Nagayoshi said he “could not imagine” playing basketball again after bringing the sport into disrepute.

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The incident came as a major embarrassment for Japan, which is preparing to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Japanese swimmer Naoya Tomita was sent home in shame from the 2014 Asian Games after he was caught on video stealing a journalist’s camera from the pool deck.

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But Yamashita was anxious to put a positive spin on Japan’s performance in Jakarta, which he said “far exceeded expectations.”

‘Couldn’t take grin off my face’

Japan’s swimmers set the stage for their country’s medal rush by winning 19 golds, pipping mighty China on total medals, with Rikako Ikee grabbing the MVP award for the Games after capturing a record six titles in the pool. “I was on my way to Disneyland when my coach called to tell me I might win it,” said the 18-year-old, who had to fly back to Jakarta to collect the award. “I couldn’t take the grin off my face all day.”

Yamashita called on Japanese athletes to build on their success for the Tokyo Olympics, acknowledging that their target of 30 gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics was an ambitious one. “Our results here are truly something to celebrate,” he said after Japan recorded its biggest gold medal tally since the 1974 Tehran Games.

“Expecting the same results in Tokyo is a big ask but we must aim to do just that. We expect great things at Tokyo 2020.”