Japan Data

Japan’s Top Athletes of 2021


Table tennis player Itō Mima, wheelchair tennis star Kunieda Shingo, and baseball phenom Ohtani Shōhei shone in a recent survey on Japan’s top sports news and athletes of 2021.

It was a difficult year for sports in 2021. January had only just begun when a state of emergency was declared in Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures, disrupting sports events and championships. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were held without spectators after an unprecedented one-year delay. Despite the challenges, however, sports broke the monotony of everyday life to bring some welcome excitement.

Sasakawa Sports Foundation held an online survey in December 2021 asking about the year’s biggest sports news and the most popular responses concerned Major League baseball player Ohtani Shōhei’s activities. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics featured in six out the top ten sports news stories chosen.

Itō Mima, the Olympic table tennis player, and Kunieda Shingo, the wheelchair tennis player who won his third gold medal at the 2020 Paralympics, were both named for excelling in their sports this year. In sports news apart from Tokyo 2020, Ohtani Shōhei was selected as the top athlete.

Top 10 Sports News

1 Major League: Ohtani Shōhei wins American League MVP award/is first ever two-way starter at an All-Star Game.
2 Tokyo 2020: Mixed doubles players Mizutani Jun and Itō Mima win Japan’s first ever table tennis gold.
3 Golf: Matsuyama Hideki’s Masters win makes him the first Japanese men’s player to win a major championship.
4 COVID-19: Sports events forced to be canceled, postponed, or go ahead without spectators.
5 Swimming: Ikee Rikako recovers from leukemia and goes on to win four national championship titles and participate in the Olympics.
6 Tokyo 2020: The first Games in history are held without spectators.
7 Tokyo 2020: The Olympics and Paralympics are held one year later than scheduled.
8 Tokyo 2020: Jūdōka Abe Hifumi and Uta become the first ever siblings to win gold on the same day.  
9 Tokyo 2020: Women’s National Basketball Team wins first ever silver for Japan.
10 Tokyo 2020: Kunieda Shingo wins third gold in wheelchair tennis.

Created by Nippon.com based on data from Sasakawa Sports Foundation.

Olympic Athletes Who Excelled in 2021

1 Itō Mima (table tennis) 
2 Mizutani Jun (table tennis) 
3 Hashimoto Daiki (gymnastics)
4 Horigome Yūto (skateboarding)
5 Japan women’s national softball team
6 Japan women’s national basketball team
7 Abe Uta (jūdō)
8 Abe Hifumi (jūdō)
9 Ōhashi Yui (swimming)
10 Ikee Rikako (swimming)

Created by Nippon.com based on data from Sasakawa Sports Foundation.

Paralympic Athletes Who Excelled in 2021

1 Kunieda Shingo (wheelchair tennis)
2 Japan men’s national wheelchair basketball team
3 Sugimura Hidetaka (boccia)
4 Kamiji Yui (wheelchair tennis)
5 Japan national wheelchair rugby team
6 Kimura Keiichi (swimming)
7 Suzuki Takayuki (swimming)
8 Sugiura Keiko (cycling)
9 Michishita Misato (athletics)
10 Kawamoto Keisuke, Takahashi Kazuki, Tanaka Keiko (boccia)

Created by Nippon.com based on data from Sasakawa Sports Foundation.

Athletes Who Excelled in 2021 (excluding Tokyo 2020)

1 Ohtani Shōhei (baseball)
2 Hanyū Yuzuru (figure Skating)
3 Uno Shōma (figure skating)
4 Matsuyama Hideki (golf)
5 Kagiyama Yūma (figure skating)
6 Sakamoto Kaori (figure skating)
7 Ōsaka Naomi (tennis)
8 Terunofuji (sumō)
9 Hachimura Rui (basketball)
10 Yamamoto Yoshinobu (baseball)

Created by Nippon.com based on data from Sasakawa Sports Foundation.

The online questionnaire survey was held from December 10 through 19 and received a total of 2,376 responses.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Wheelchair tennis player Kunieda Shingo. © Reuters.)

Paralympics Tokyo Olympics Ohtani Shōhei Itō Mima