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Murakami gets silver in all-around at worlds

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Mai Murakami finished second in the women’s individual all-around competition at the World Gymnastics Championships on Thursday, earning Japan its first-ever silver medal in the category.

Murakami accrued 55.798 points to place second behind reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles of the United States, who won a record-breaking fourth world title with 57.491. Biles’ compatriot Morgan Hurd, last year’s champion, took bronze with 55.732.

“Even if I lost, I wanted to finish without any regrets. I’m happy I got the silver medal on my own,” said Murakami, who placed fourth at last year’s worlds.

It is the third time a Japanese gymnast has made the podium in the women’s individual all-around competition at the worlds, following Keiko Tanaka-Ikeda’s third-place finish in 1966 and Koko Tsurumi’s bronze in 2009.

Murakami finished second behind Biles in the floor exercise, joint-third in the vault and fourth on the balance beam. She struggled on the uneven bars, however, finishing outside the top 10.

“I’m weak on the uneven bars and the balance beam, and if I can’t raise the D score (measuring the difficulty of the routine), then I can’t win by a comfortable margin,” Murakami said.

“Next year and at the Tokyo Olympics (in 2020), I have to raise my D score by a lot.”

The 22-year-old became the first Japanese woman to win gold in the floor exercise at the world championships last year, and has since grown into a contender for the all-around title at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after improving in the other three events.

Asuka Teramoto, who along with Murakami and Hitomi Hatakeda finished sixth in the women’s team all-around on Tuesday, finished 10th with 54.299. Teramoto topped the 24-woman field with a 14.633 score in the vault, but fell behind in the other events.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment. But I really wanted to perform like this in the team all-around final,” Teramoto said. “It became a world championship where there is still some regret.”

Biles won despite uncharacteristic errors in two of the disciplines, the vault and beam, to claim her 12th world title.

“Didn’t mean to give everyone a heart attack,” she tweeted afterward. “I apologize. I won’t do that again.”

Biles did not dominate as many anticipated.

She trailed after a poor landing on her first piece of apparatus, the vault, and also struggled on the beam where she came off.

Despite that, her winning margin of 1.693 is the largest of her titles.

However, Biles was not satisfied.

“I’m still pretty disappointed because I know what I can do out there,” she said.

“It doesn’t show who I am and that’s kind of disappointing. But we have finals so hopefully I will redeem myself.”

And she is on course to rewrite the record books several more times this week.

She now has 16 world championship medals, just four behind the record of 20 medals, set by Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina.

And if, as highly likely, she wins one more gold medal in Doha — she already won a team gold earlier this week — it will make her the first gymnast, female or male, to win 13 world titles.

Biles is the favorite for several medals in the individual events, which take place on Friday and Saturday.

Adding to her remarkable achievements is the fact she is performing despite a kidney stone problem which saw her rushed to hospital on the weekend.

She said on Thursday that the kidney stone was not an issue.

Her success comes after she took a year off in 2017, following her triumphant showing at the Rio Olympics, where she won four golds, including the all around.

Earlier this year, Biles revealed that she was a victim of former U.S. team doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on charges of sexual assault.

Hurd said she felt “pretty good” with her bronze medal.

“I did the best I could do for today,” said the 17-year-old.

Going agonizingly close to the podium were Belgium’s Nina Derwael and Russia’s Angelina Melnikova.

At one point Derwael headed the competition and looked certain to claim a medal but was outdone by superlative final performances by the top three.

Emphasizing how close the competition was, there was just 0.001 points between Derwael in fourth and the Russian a place further back.