A former baseball player, the 19-year-old Takafumi Nishitani qualified for the 1998 Olympics by winning the 500 m in the Japanese Championships. Not much was expected of him at his home Games, so his qualification for the 500 m final already meant a huge surprise. Nishitani himself obviously expected more, and brought an extra pair of pants and hair gel just for the medal ceremony. In the race, he led from the start to take the gold, Japan's first in Olympic short track speed skating. It proved Nishitani's only major international result. After a disappointing showing at the Torino Olympics, he quit short track and switched to cycling, taking part in the very popular Japanese keirin circuit.