Family affair: Rie Tanaka, two brothers earn spots on Olympic gymnastics squad


Rie Tanaka secured a berth to her first Olympics on Saturday with victory in the women’s individual all-around at the NHK Cup, and her brothers Kazuhito and Yusuke ensured it will be a faily affair at the London Games as both made the men’s team at this final Japanese selection qualifier.

It is the first time that three siblings will be competing for Japan in gymnastics at the Olympics.

National champion Rie Tanaka scored 55.650 points with a solid performance at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, sealing qualification for London along with Yu Minobe, Asuka Teramoto, 2009 world all-around bronze medalist Koko Tsurumi and Yuko Shintake.

The five female gymnasts qualified for London based on their results at this two-day event and the national championships held here in April.

Rie, who held an overnight lead of 6.450 points, finished the qualifying program with a four-round total of 224.150.

“Looking back at today I had the lead but I tried to perform as though I had no breathing space,” she said.

“I made small errors but at the end of the day I have got myself a ticket to the London Olympics so I am really happy. But this is just a passing point and I have to try harder looking ahead to London so I can deliver better performances,” she added.

Teramoto along with Tanaka will be making her Olympic debut in London. Minobe, Tsurumi and Shintake will be part of the Japanese delegation for the second Olympics in a row.

Kazuhito, 26, and Yusuke, 22, along with Ryohei Kato and Koji Yamamuro earned the four remaining men’s berths to all make the Olympics for the first time. They join three-time all-around men’s world champion Kohei Uchimura, who had already been given the nod for London based on his results at the world championships in Tokyo last October.

“I’m relieved. I got married at the end of last year and I was thinking I would feel bad for my wife if my results dipped,” said Kazuhito. “For now I have qualified for the Olympics and got the right result so I am pleased.”

“But this is not the goal it is just one stop on the way (to London). I want me and my brother and sister to do well in London and will work towards that goal. I also hope this five-man team can bring the most beautiful colored medal home and will practice hard this summer to make that happen.”

Yusuke, who qualified through meeting the standard in the horizontal bar, added, “Today I didn’t perform well at all and at the end thought I had blown my chance. I want to place my focus on the team gold medal for London and really try and carry out my role.”

Uchimura, although not involved in the domestic qualification process, won the NHK title for the fourth time in succession to add to the fifth straight national crown he claimed last month.

The 23-year-old, who won four world medals: individual all-around and floor exercise golds, a team silver and a bronze in the horizontal bar, has been using the national and NHK meets to fine tune for London.

“I didn’t make any mistakes today and this will put me in good stead for London. I have been able to refine my program at these meets and now it is just a case of getting myself physically in top condition,” said Uchimura.

“I got the provisional OK to go to London in December so it has felt a bit lonely. I am happy that the team is all set now and that loneliness has faded away,” he added with a smile.