China hosts Japan for first-ever joint gymnastics practices
Hu Shichen

The Chinese men's gymnastics team have been hosting their Japanese counterparts for a historic week of joint training sessions, as the two sides prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. The delegation from Japan arrived in China on Sunday, with the practices beginning a day later. 

This is the first time the Chinese and Japanese gymnastics teams have ever trained together. The visiting side's top 10 athletes are taking part, including 30-year-old superstar Kohei Uchimura. 

Also on hand in Beijing is his heir apparent, 16-year-old Takeru Kitazono, who made history by winning five gold medals at last fall's Buenos Aires Youth Olympics. During Wednesday's session which was open to the media, both squads focused on communication more than intensity, as they shared tips and encouragement. 

Gymnasts during a training session./ VCG Photo 

Gymnasts during a training session./ VCG Photo 

China claimed four golds, one silver, and one bronze at last year's World Championships in Doha. Japan settled for just three silver and three bronze and failed to defend their team title, with Uchimura competing on a reduced schedule. Now the visiting squad's leader and their coach hope these practices, along with a return trip to Tokyo planned for the spring, can help push both teams to new heights. 

"China, Japan, and Russia are the three most competitive gymnastics teams in the world right now. I hope that we can gain some inspiration from China, and actually, we are already improving, so I hope that we can keep improving in the next few days," said Hisashi Mizutori, Japan's head coach. 

"China are the top team in gymnastics, but the specialties of the Chinese and Japanese athletes are totally different, so we want to focus on some basic skills, and learning some unique elements from China. These joint practice sessions can promote the sport's development, so I'm not worried about whether or not the Chinese gymnasts will learn my skills," said Uchimura.