DOHA – Japan secured a 2020 Tokyo Olympic berth in the men’s gymnastics team event by finishing third at the world championships in Doha on Monday.
Japan, led by three-time Olympic gold medalist Kohei Uchimura, scored a total of 253.744 points to finish behind China and Russia at Aspire Dome. The top three teams in the eight-team field were all guaranteed berths to the next Summer Games.
“(The medal) wasn’t the color we were aiming for, but at least we were able to deliver our minimum results,” Uchimura said.
“I’m not satisfied but I have mixed feelings because we finished third and qualified for the Olympics. It’s my first bronze in the team event, so I’m happy I got a new color.”
Japan won the team event the last time it was held in 2015, and earned gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics the following year.
The team of Uchimura, eight-time world medalist Kenzo Shirai, Yusuke Tanaka, Kazuma Kaya and Wataru Tanigawa led after the first three of six routines. But Tanaka, a member of the 2016 gold-winning team, fell during his parallel bar exercise and only scored 11.566 points, while China’s Zou Jingyuan pulled off the highest score at 16.200.
“We would have had a good shot against China and Russia if I had performed like I always do. Everyone (on the team) was doing their best so I’m very sorry,” said Tanaka, who had been complaining of right shoulder pain before the meet kicked off.
Uchimura, a six-time world all-around champ, did not perform in the floor exercise and the vault due to a right-ankle injury he sustained last month. The 29-year-old, however, helped the team get momentum as he opened Japan’s competition in the pommel, its first routine.
“I want to continue supporting Japan at important moments like this,” he said.
“Every team made mistakes. I was reminded how difficult it is to compete without making errors, but at the same time, I noticed how fun (gymnastics) is even after all these years.”