Two Japanese dancers won gold medals Friday at the prestigious USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sayako Toku, 21, from Kobe, won in the senior women's division and Ryo Sasaki, 24, from Osaka Prefecture, won in the senior men's division.

The two, who took part as a pair and were evaluated separately, also won the Best Senior Couple award in what is known as one of the world's three major ballet competitions, along with the Varna competition in Bulgaria and one in Moscow.

"Winning gold was a surprise," said Toku after the announcement, adding, "I'm so grateful to the people who have supported me."

Sasaki also expressed his joy, saying, "I can't believe this. I am at a loss for words."

The U.S. competition was held from June 10 with around 100 dancers from 16 countries taking part.

The event is held once every four years, but it was postponed for a year due to the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At the competition in 2018, another Japanese, Hyuma Kiyosawa, won the silver medal in the junior male division.