Japan's Brave Blossoms reaching the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup on home soil and "Smiling Cinderalla" Hinako Shibuno's sensational win at the Women's British Open were among the big stories in Japanese sports in 2019.
Rugby - Brave Blossoms
Tournament hosts Japan reached the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time. The Brave Blossoms beat Russia, Pool A favorites Ireland, Samoa and Scotland to finish the first round with a perfect 4-0 record. Their magical run ended in the last eight with defeat to South Africa's Springboks, who went on to win the title for a third time by beating England.
Golf - Hinako Shibuno
Hinako Shibuno, a rookie on the Japanese LPGA Tour, captured the Women's British Open, becoming just the second Japanese golfer to win an overseas major and first in 42 years. An instant favorite among fans and press, Shibuno earned the nickname "Smiling Cinderella" for her vivacious presence on the course, where she high-fived fans and waved to delighted galleries.
Tennis - Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka claimed her second straight Grand Slam title with a 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-4 victory over the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open. Osaka's win saw her become the first singles player from Asia to reach world No. 1 in the tennis rankings on either the men's or women's tour.
Baseball - Ichiro
Iconic superstar Ichiro Suzuki, who has more hits in professional baseball than any other Japanese player, retired. Suzuki had 3,089 major league hits after leaving Nippon Professional Baseball in 2000 with 1,278. A 10-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award-winner, Suzuki set Major League Baseball's record for hits in a single season with 262 in 2004.
Marathon - 2020 Tokyo Olympics
The International Olympic Committee decides to move the 2020 Tokyo Olympic marathon and race walking events from the Japanese capital to Sapporo due to concerns over heat and humidity in the city. The IOC's decision was influenced by the disastrous world athletics championships in Doha, where many runners failed to finish the women's marathon held in stamina-sapping heat.
Basketball - Rui Hachimura
Washington Wizards first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura makes his NBA debut against the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the first Japan-born player to start in a season-opener. Hachimura is one of three Japanese players to make it to the world's premier basketball league, following Yuta Tabuse, who played for the Phoenix Suns in 2004, and Yuta Watanabe, who became a two-way player for the Memphis Grizzlies last season.
Swimming - Rikako Ikee
Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee, considered a strong medal prospect at next year's Tokyo Olympic Games, was diagnosed with leukemia. Ikee, who shot to fame at last summer's Asian Games in Jakarta, where she was named the games' MVP after winning six gold medals, has been released from hospital and has set her sights on competing at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Athletics: Abdul Hakim Sani Brown
Japanese sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown set a national record with a time of 9.97 seconds in the men's 100 meters at the NCAA Division I outdoor athletics championships in June. Sani Brown, who competes for the University of Florida, became the first Japanese to break the 10-second barrier twice, having clocked a personal best 9.99 in May.
Badminton - Kento Momota
World No. 1 Kento Momota was named Male Player of the Year by the Badminton World Federation. Momota, won 11 international competitions this season including a second consecutive world championship and the season-ending World Tour Finals.
Boxing - Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue won a bruising thriller against Nonito Donaire of the Philippines by unanimous decision to capture the WBA super bantamweight title. The fight, the bantamweight final of the World Boxing Super Series, earned Inoue the Muhammad Ali Trophy.