Sports

Schoolchildren give Japanese athletes medals ahead of London Games

July 21, 2012: In this photo, two-time Olympic champion of women's wrestling -55kg category Saori Yoshida, poses with one of the medals that schoolchildren from the tsunami-hit towns in northeastern Japan presented for Japanese Olympians, in Tokyo.

July 21, 2012: In this photo, two-time Olympic champion of women's wrestling -55kg category Saori Yoshida, poses with one of the medals that schoolchildren from the tsunami-hit towns in northeastern Japan presented for Japanese Olympians, in Tokyo.  (AP)

Japanese Olympians have received medals even before heading to London.

Schoolchildren from the tsunami-hit areas in northern Japan presented each athlete in the country's 518-member delegation with a hand-carved good luck charm made of driftwood during a send-off ceremony in Tokyo over the weekend.

The medals measure 2 inches in diameter and have the Japanese Olympic Committee emblem on them. The attached ribbons carry signed messages from the children.

The March 11, 2011, disasters left about 19,000 people dead or missing.

One of the medal carvers, 14-year-old Mizuho Sato, says many people supported her after the tsunami and that it's now her turn to cheer for the athletes.

That brought tears to the eyes of javelin thrower Yukifumi Murakami, who vowed to return the favor with good results.