jordan spieth masters-champion

TWELVE – Jordan Spieth Wins 1/2 of Golf’s Grand Slam: Spieth, who won the US Open and the Masters, reminds fans of a young Tiger Woods. He and other golfers will make their Olympic debuts in Rio.


ELEVEN – Sprinter Usain Bolt Returns to Form: Bolt won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the World Championships in August, overcoming injuries and slower times up till then, as well as rival Justin Gatlin. Bolt has six gold medals, three each in the 100m, 200m and 4×100 relay at the 2008 Games in Beijing, as well as the 2012 Games in London.

yuzuru hanyu

TEN – Yuzuru Hanyu Breaks Records: Gold medalist in mens’ singles figure skating in 2014, Hanyu skated better than anyone has ever skated in 2015,finishing the year by breaking the world record for short programs first at the NHK Trophy tournament in November, and then again in the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December.

See this link for 13 through fifteen.

Sani Brown IAAF Junior Worlds
Abdul Hakim Sani Brown. Photo by Kaz Magatsuka

As the Japan Times reported on November 27, Abdul Hakim Sani Brown became the first Japanese to win the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) Rising Star Award.

That’s right – a Japanese named Sani Brown. The son of a father from Ghana and a mother from Japan, Brown is a 16-year sprinter who was the fastest in the 100 and 200 meter races at the IAAF World Junior Championship in Cali, Colombia this past July. Not only that, his 20.34 seconds in the 200 broke the championship record previously held by Usain Bolt!

Watch Brown, who was favored a few days after winning the 100 meters, break Bolt’s Junior Championship record in convincing fashion.

Japan is easily one of the most homogeneous societies in the world, with well over 98% of the 126 million citizens of Japanese ethnicity. Those of mixed race have had mixed receptions in Japan. So-called “Hāfu” (a Japanese word that intimates that half of your parents are Japanese) are becoming more and more accepted in society as celebrity mixed race Japanese fill the air waves and print space.

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Sani Brown is a one of  growing number of biracial Japanese athletes. Photo from KYODO.

Star pitcher for the Texas Rangers, Yu Darvish, has an Iranian father. Popular television personality, Becky, has a British father. And the father of current Miss Universe Japan, Ariana Miayamoto, is African-American. With international marriages in Japan increasing five-fold since 1965, it’s no surprise that the children of these couples would rise in number, and continuously challenge what it means to be a Japanese.

As Miyamoto expressed in this New York Times interview, she is up for the challenge. My guess is that Sani Brown is as well.

“Even today, I am usually seen not as a Japanese but as a foreigner. At restaurants, people give me an English menu and praise me for being able to eat with chopsticks,” said Ms. Miyamoto, who spoke in her native Japanese and is an accomplished calligrapher of Japanese-Chinese characters. “I want to challenge the definition of being Japanese.”

Jason GatlinWhen Justin Gatlin lost to Usain Bolt in the 100-meter finals at the IAAF Track and Field Championships, the twitterverse was definitely rooting for Bolt to retain his championship. Gatlin’s history with doping turned this match into a morality play – Unblemished Bolt vs. Tainted Gatlin.

There were some who came to Gatlin’s defense – he tested positive for a banned substance in 2001, was subsequently banned for competition for two years, which was later reduced to one year. In other words, he served time for the crime, as it were.

What I learned recently is how aggressive drug testing is today. According to this article by Nick Zaccardi, who writes a blog on the Olympics for NBC, Gatlin has already been tested 62 times in 2015 – that’s once every four days!

On the surface, I agree with his agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, that “It’s ridiculous.” But then again, it’s a high-stakes world where considerable amounts of money is poured into finding the edge that brings the slimmest of improvements in competitive sports.

Gatlin’s not alone. In 2014 Gatlin was the second most tested track and field competitor, but Michael Phelps was tested even more.

Thus the cat and mouse game between chemists and regulators continues…. probably forever.

usain bolt in ny
Usain Bolt, left, of Jamaica, winning the 200-meter dash in 20.29 seconds Saturday at the Adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium in New York. Credit Hilary Swift/The New York Times

Wow! Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, won the 200 meters in New York in a very slow 20.29 seconds. That’s only .01 seconds faster than Henry Carr’s gold medal time in 1964.  Will Bolt be ready for Rio?