27 April, 2011

Japanese National Championships in Artistic Gymnastics 2011

Kohei Uchimura JPN

kohei-uchimura-jpnDoha (QAT) / AGU Office, April 27, 2011: The 65th Japanese National Championships for individual all-around, the first competition of artistic gymnastics after the Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake in March, was held among a high atmosphere of the recovery, with the belief that a sport activity can encourage the people. Each gymnast put their number on their back with a slogan that said “Gambarou Nippon!” (“Support Japan!”).  In the opening ceremony, they observed a silent tribute to the victims of the earthquake. Before and after the competitions, some former Olympians and the competitors of the meet participated in a fund-raising campaign near the venue.

Universiades trials
The competition had two big meanings: it was a test event for the coming World Championships in October; it was the final Universiades trials for women.  The final Universiades trials for men will be in June (NHK Cup).   Furthermore, the final trials for the World Championships, both men and women, will be also NHK Cup in June.
84 male gymnasts and 84 female gymnasts competed on the first day and of these 42 men and 24 women proceeded to the second day.
The two-time world champion, Kohei Uchimura, who graduated from Nittaidai University (Nippon Sports Science University) and is now a member of the Konami team, led the men’s competition for two days to win his fourth consecutive title.  He upgraded his floor and vault routine; this made him a bit short of a perfect meet: He had some small mistakes, which were not characteristic for him, but he still had good scores throughout the competition. Finally he won his fourth title over his compatriot, Kenya Kobayashi, by more than 8 points.
The bronze medalist on parallel bars in the 2009 World Championships, Kazuhito Tanaka, placed third. Konami was the most successful club in the meet: they had 4 gymnasts in the top 6: Uchimura, Kobayashi, Yamamuro (4th) and Okiguchi  (6th).
The women’s competition had two gymnasts popular with the gymnastics fans and the media: Koko Tsurumi was aiming at her sixth consecutive title, and Rie Tanaka, the bronze medalist at the 2010 Asian Games and the winner of the Longines Prize for Elegance at the 2010 World Championships, competed for her first national all-around title.
Tanaka made a big mistake on uneven bars; she fell after her Malony on the first day, which eventually cost her the title.  Tsurumi, in contrast, had a near-perfect meet without a big mistake and won her sixth consecutive title since 2005, which was the first-ever in Japanese gymnastics history, not only for men but also for women. She upgraded her routine on uneven bars and changed not only her routine but also her music and choreography on floor. She overcame her disappointing results last year and regained her confidence. The 2008 Olympian and two-time World Championship competitor, Yuko Shintake, finished in third place over veteran Kyoko Oshima.  Natsumi Sasada, who competed in the 2010 Youth Olympics, made some big mistakes and finished eighth.
The results of the two days decided the women’s roster for the Universiades that will be held in Shenzhen, China, in August. The following top five of the eligible gymnasts will make the Universiades team: Rie Tanaka; Yuko Shintake; Kyoko Oshima; Mai Yamagishi; Yu Minobe.
All of the five have made the World or Olympic team, and they will be the strongest Japanese team in  Universiades history of Japan. They are expected to have impressive performances and bring a good result for Japan.
Rie and Kazuhito Tanaka are brothers as FIG News told during the 2010 World Championships. They have a younger brother, Yusuke Tanaka, whose coach is the former world champion, Hiroyuki Tomita at Juntendo University.  Yusuke had an impressive meet on the second day and finished fifth.  His good result brought a big chance for all Tanaka Brothers to make the world championships rosters. If all three siblings make the team, they will also make history for the entire world!

by Toshiaki Fujii  (Japan Gymnastics Association).