GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA - Men’s synchronized divers Ken Terauchi and Sho Sakai on Saturday became the first Japanese to qualify for next year’s Tokyo Olympics in any sport.
The 38-year-old Terauchi, already a five-time Olympian, and his 26-year-old teammate punched their tickets to the Olympics by finishing seventh in the men’s 3-meter synchronized diving competition at the swimming world championships. They needed to finish in the top eight to qualify.
“It was tough, but we kept grinding and competing,” Terauchi said with a smile. “To earn a spot in the Olympics is good for us and good for the team.”
Terauchi competed in four straight Olympics from 1996 — as a high school freshman — to 2008 before temporarily retiring in 2009. He resumed his career in 2011. Although he was not selected to compete at the 2012 Games in London, he did make Japan’s team for Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where Sakai was competing for the first time.
When Terauchi competes next year in Tokyo, he will match the Japanese record for summer Olympic appearances currently held by equestrian rider Taizo Sugitani.
The Japanese pair finished with 389.43 points.
China’s Xie Siyi and Cao Yuan won gold with 439.74, while Britain’s Jack Laugher and Daniel Goodfellow were distant runners-up with 415.02. Juan Manuel Celaya Hernandez and Yahel Castillo Huerta of Mexico were third.