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Olympic gold medalist gymnast Yusuke Tanaka qualifies for worlds

Kyodo

Rio de Janeiro Olympic gold medalist Yusuke Tanaka defended his men’s parallel bars title on Sunday at Japan’s apparatus national championships and qualified for this autumn’s world championships in Doha.

Tanaka, a member of Japan’s gold-medal winning men’s team in 2016, secured a berth for the Oct. 25-Nov. 3 world championships along with Wataru Tanigawa and Kazuma Kaya.

“I achieved my targets,” Tanaka said. “The meet gave me confidence. Now I am aiming to win team gold at the worlds.”

They will join two-time Olympic overall men’s champion Kohei Uchimura and Kenzo Shirai, who had already been selected.

Tanaka earned 15.233 points in the parallel bars at Takasaki Arena, followed by Tanigawa’s younger brother Kakeru, the reigning overall national champion. Kaya, who competed at the 2015 worlds, was third in the pommel horse.

Wataru Tanigawa, who represented Japan at last year’s worlds, was runner-up in the floor exercise, won by Shirai for the sixth-straight time.

“I thought today was going to be make or break,” Tanigawa said. “I got my high score for the year in the floor exercise.”

Instead of competing at the worlds, 19-year-old Kakeru Tanigawa, Japan’s youngest overall national champion, will represent Japan at the Asian Games, which start next month.

In the women’s competition, Mai Murakami won the floor exercise for the sixth time, while topping the balance beam. The Japan Gymnastics Association has named six candidates and will select five gymnasts to compete at the worlds.