Kakeru Tanigawa won the men’s competition at the NHK Cup for the first time Sunday, booking his spot at this year’s world championships in Germany.
Tanigawa, who won his second straight national championship last month, claimed a total of 254.363 points for the victory in an event missing 10-time defending champion Kohei Uchimura.
The 20-year-old came into the tournament with 170.265 points from the nationals, and scored 84.098 points Sunday for his six routines at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza in Tokyo.
“I thought ‘this is the greatest’ the moment I stuck my landing from the high-bar routine,” he said. “Since I’ve been trying so hard, I just wanted to nail the landing no matter what. I’m blown away.
“I want to become stronger before I go into the world championships.”
He will represent Japan at October’s world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, along with his older brother Wataru and Kazuma Kaya. Wataru was runner-up, 0.235 points behind, while Kaya was third.
Kenzo Shirai, a member of Japan’s gold-winning team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, finished 23rd.
Uchimura, two-time reigning Olympic all-around champ, did not qualify for the NHK Cup, since he did not advance to the finals at the national championships.
The Japan Gymnastics Association will name two more gymnasts for the worlds after June’s apparatus national championships, based on that competition’s results and contributions to the team event.