Tanaka moves closer to Olympics


Rie Tanaka took a significant step towards booking her Olympic gymnastics ticket by taking the lead on the first day of the women’s individual all-around at the NHK Cup on Friday, the last Japanese selection qualifier for the London Games.

Tanaka, who won her maiden national title in April in the first of the final two selection qualifiers, scored 55.850 to open up an overall lead of over six points over Natsumi Sasada and Asuka Teramoto.

A total of five female gymnasts qualify for London based on their results at the nationals and this two-day event also being held at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

Tanaka, whose brothers Kazuhito and Yusuke are also aiming for London berths and were in action later in the day, has a three-day total of 168.500 points, 6.450 ahead of Sasada and Teramoto.

“Overall I am not really satisfied with my performance but I didn’t make any major mistakes and was able to keep a grip on myself,” said Rie Tanaka.

“I did as I expected on the vault but couldn’t find a rhythm on the uneven bars and rushed things a bit so I couldn’t make a good landing.”

“I was determined to do well on the beam but maybe tried too hard not to fall off and that was reflected in the score,” said the 24-year-old. “You never know what is going to happen until the end and I just want to finish off well as the final gymnast in the floor routine (on Saturday).”

Koko Tsurumi, the 2009 world all-around bronze medalist, was in sixth place with 55.000 and a total of 160.800.

Three-time all-around men’s world champion Kohei Uchimura won the national title for the fifth time in a row in April but is not involved in the Olympic qualifying process as he has already secured his ticket to London based on his results at the world championships in Tokyo last October.

The 23-year-old won four medals: individual all-around and floor exercise golds, a team silver and a bronze in the horizontal bar.