RIO DE JANEIRO – Japan’s male gymnasts secured a place in the team final at the Rio Olympics despite some error-prone performances in Saturday’s qualifying, but Kohei Uchimura missed the cut for the horizontal bar final after an uncharacteristic fall.
Uchimura, the reigning Olympic and world men’s all-around champion, advanced to the all-around individual final, with the second-highest score of 90.498 points, and will also compete in one apparatus final — floor exercise.
The Japanese men, aiming to win the team gold for the first time since the 2004 Athens Games, amassed 269.294 points at the Rio Olympic Arena to finish in fourth place among 12 squads vying for the eight-team final.
Two-time defending team champion China led the pack at 270.461, followed by the United States and Russia.
The Japanese team got off to a steady start, with Ryohei Kato pulling off a clean routine on the pommel horse in the first rotation, but second-up Yusuke Tanaka fell during his performance — the first of a series of lackluster showings that would follow.
Among notable mistakes in later rotations, Koji Yamamuro had a bad landing on the vault and fell during the parallel bars, while Uchimura failed to regrasp the horizontal bar on his first release maneuver.
“On the horizontal bar, I fell on a move where I normally don’t, so that’s very frustrating,” said Uchimura, who had been a gold medal hopeful on the apparatus.
“As a team also, there were mistakes that we don’t normally make. So even though we’ve trained a lot, I guess this can happen at an Olympics,” he added.
“We did pretty well in practice, so we may have had a bit of overconfidence,” the 27-year-old three-time Olympian said. “We weren’t able to be careful in areas where we have to.”
He said the team will make adjustments so they would not repeat the same mistakes during the final competitions.
Compatriot Ryohei Kato also went through to the 24-man all-around final with the sixth-highest score. Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev was the top qualifier with 91.964 points.
Japan’s Kenzo Shirai advanced to the floor final along with Uchimura and also qualified for the vault final, while Kato made it into the parallel bars final.
Saturday’s competition served as qualifying for both the team and individual final competitions. The scores in the qualification round are not carried over to the finals.