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Mai Murakami makes history with gold medal at worlds; Kenzo Shirai wins vault title

Kyodo

Mai Murakami became the first Japanese woman to win the floor exercise at the artistic gymnastics world championships on Sunday, while compatriot Kenzo Shirai captured his second title of the meet in the men’s vault.

Murakami became Japan’s first female world champion in 63 years after winning the floor with 14.233 points. American Jade Carey took silver with 14.200 and Briton Claudia Fragapane (13.933) won bronze.

“Winning the gold medal is proof I’m improving,” the 21-year-old Murakami said. “It might have been the best routine I’ve ever done.”

Keiko Tanaka in the balance beam was the last Japanese woman to top the podium in 1954.

“The women haven’t been able to win a medal, so I’m glad I was able to (win gold) for us for the first time in 63 years,” Murakami said.

The 21-year-old Shirai, who also won the floor and was third in the all-around at these championships, took the vault title with 14.900 — just 0.001 ahead of Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov. Kim Han-sol (14.766) of South Korea finished with bronze.

“I was able to win this gold medal by keeping my cool,” said Shirai, who became Japan’s youngest world champion ever in 2013 when he won the floor. “I was able to leave everything out there. This result will help me become a true all-around gymnast.”