• Kyodo

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A day after winning the men’s horizontal bar for his second gold medal during his debut Olympics, Japan’s new gymnastics star Daiki Hashimoto said Wednesday his sights were already set on claiming more hardware at the Paris Games in 2024.

Hashimoto, who also took gold in the individual all-around, said his only regret at the Tokyo Olympics was not topping the podium in the team event, which Japan finished just 0.103 point behind the Russian Olympic Committee for silver.

“It was my first time but I enjoyed performing on the Olympic stage,” the 19-year-old told reporters.

“I wanted to win the team gold medal but I will turn the frustration of not being able to do that into growth and hopefully win it in three years’ time in Paris.”

In men’s gymnastics, dominated for years by Japan’s “King Kohei” Uchimura, the Tokyo Olympics proved to be a turning point for the sport in the country as a new generation of gymnasts took the spotlight.

Every member of Japan’s silver medal-winning team was an Olympic debutant with not much experience of competing at international level. Captain Kazuma Kaya, who was a reserve member for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, also captured bronze in the pommel horse as Japan finished with four medals on the men’s side.

Uchimura, the winner of the last two individual all-arounds at the Olympics, only qualified for the men’s horizontal bar at the games due to fitness issues, but he failed to advance to the finals after falling during his routine.

Japan's Daiki Hashimoto competes in the artistic gymnastics men's horizontal bar final on Tuesday at Ariake Gymnastics Centre. | AFP-JIJI
Japan’s Daiki Hashimoto competes in the artistic gymnastics men’s horizontal bar final on Tuesday at Ariake Gymnastics Centre. | AFP-JIJI

Hashimoto, who went on to win that event on Tuesday evening, has been referred to as the heir of the 32-year-old Uchimura.

The university student improved during the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Games, and booked his Olympic ticket after winning both the national championships and NHK Cup this spring.

“The past year was a time for me to train so I could win a gold medal,” Hashimoto said. “If the Tokyo Olympics had been held last year, there’s a good possibility that I wouldn’t have even qualified.”

In the women’s competitions, Mai Murakami picked up Japan’s second Olympic gymnastics medal, and first since the team event at the 1964 Tokyo Games.

Murakami, who was competing in her second Olympics, claimed floor exercise bronze to become the first woman from Japan to win an individual medal.

With her trademark “Silivas” move, a double twisting double tuck somersault, Murakami has worked to improve the accuracy and executions of her elements in the women’s sport, which has been dominated by Americans in recent years.

She also finished fifth in the women’s individual all-around, which was the highest result by a Japanese gymnast. The event was won by American Sunisa Lee. Defending champion Simone Biles did not compete.

Murakami, who had indicated that the Tokyo Olympics would be a culmination of her competitive career, said early this week that she plans to continue.

“I got a medal and that moment made me feel ready to move forward and continue working hard,” said Murakami, who will turn 25 on Thursday. “I want to keep going until it is physically difficult.”

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