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Shirai becomes youngest male gymnast to make national team after floor win


Kenzo Shirai, a 16-year-old high school sophomore, won the floor exercise on Sunday at the national apparatus championships.

Shirai won with a score of 15.900 points at the meet which is used to select members for Japan’s team for the world championships in Antwerp, Belgium. He becomes the youngest to compete for the national men’s team.

According to the Japan Gymnastics Association, the youngest previous male athletes to represent Japan were Yukio Iketani and Daisuke Nishikawa, a pair of Seifu High School seniors from Osaka who competed at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Koji Yamamura, Kazuhito Tanaka and Kohei Kameyama also earned spots on the men’s team. They join Ryohei Kato, who earned a spot earlier this month at the NHK Cup, and Olympic champion and three-time overall world champ Kohei Uchimura.

Sixteen-year-old Mai Murakami won the women’s vault with 14.500 points for her first national championship, while 17-year-old Natsumi Sasada won her second title in the uneven bars with 14.150 points. With her first championship in two years, Sasada will make her national team debut with Murakami in Antwerp.

With 17-year-old Asuka Teramoto having earned her ticket to Antwerp by winning the NHK Cup, the women’s squad will feature three high school students. Yu Minobe rounds out the team after winning her first balance beam title in six years.

The world championships will take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 10.