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Olympics: Japan eye men's team gymnastics gold at Paris 2024

Sports Scene


Having missed the men's gymnastics team title by a hair at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Japan are determined to beat their biggest rivals China and take gold in Paris, setting that goal as their top priority with less than one month left until the Games begin.

During the Tokyo Olympics, Russia beat Japan by 0.103 points – a sliver of a number that etched itself into the minds of the three Japanese gymnasts and their head coach, who will be returning to the Games looking to erase those painful memories.

"We had the bitter experience of losing by the narrowest of margins, by 0.103," all-around titleholder Daiki Hashimoto told Reuters after a team training session in Tokyo last week. "I want us to win that gold and enjoy the view from the podium."

"After losing to Russia by 0.103 in Tokyo, we've been working hard towards Paris fueled by a sense of revenge, so there's a part of me that's a bit sad that they won't be there," said Japan head coach Hisashi Mizutori, a former team gold medalist. "Still, it's a big chance for us to grab that medal, so we'll do what we need to do."

A victory by Japan this summer would extend the country's record to eight team golds. The Japanese squad said they have full confidence in being able to do so, thanks to a well-balanced team and their superior collective difficulty score (or "D-score") over China.

Based on simulations of the teams' routines on the six apparatuses, Japan's D-score tally was likely to top China's, according to Mizutori. That means the key over the remaining weeks might be to simply polish their routines and minimize any mistakes.

"That was quite a surprise, since China had long had a higher D-score than Japan," said Kazuma Kaya, who won bronze in the pommel horse in Tokyo. "In that sense, we have the strongest five members this time."

Led by Hashimoto, Japan took the title at the World Championships last October with a total score of 255.594 points – nearly two points ahead of China – although the runners-up competed without their ace all-arounder Zhang Boheng.

With the 24-year-old Zhang added to the Olympic roster this time, China will be a formidable force, Mizutori warned, leaving Japan little room for error.

Zhang is also set to give Hashimoto a run for his money, with the latter still nursing a finger injury that he said put him at 60 percent at last week's training session.

"I don't think the pain will disappear completely, but I want to get as close to 100 percent as possible before Paris," he said, adding that he is aiming to defend his all-around and horizontal bar titles, for a total haul of three golds.

Mizutori said he saw the makeup of the Paris squad as being similar to the group who topped the podium at Rio 2016. That five-man team featured four members who missed out on gold in London in 2012 and a younger addition in Kenzo Shirai.

"We have experienced members and new members this time, so it's relatively similar and the balance is really good," the coach said. "And just as the team in Rio had (seven-time Olympic medalist Kohei) Uchimura, we have Hashimoto, so I think we can expect a similar result."

Hashimoto and Kaya will be joined by Wataru Tanigawa, Takaaki Sugino and 20-year-old Shinnosuke Oka.

Artistic gymnastics will run from July 27 to August 5, with the men's team final scheduled for July 29.

Source(s): Reuters
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