• Kyodo

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Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Mai Murakami provisionally topped the preliminary round in women’s floor exercise at the gymnastics world championships on Monday, the first major international tournament of any sport in Japan since the Summer Games.

The 25-year-old, who became the first Japanese female gymnast to medal in an individual event at the Olympics, scored 14.166 points at Kitakyushu General Gymnasium, the best tally after gymnasts in seven of 10 groups finished their performances.

Murakami, carrying a left ankle injury, hinted prior to the tournament that it will be her final career appearance.

“I was anxious with my lack of preparations, but the power of fans helped me. I was really happy,” said Murakami, who had spoken of her excitement in being able to bow out in front of spectators having had none during the Tokyo Games.

“I want them to see me going for a medal (in the final).”

Hitomi Hatakeda, the only Japanese taking part in the individual all-around, scored 53.798 after four apparatus to provisionally sit third as seven of 10 groups also ended their preliminaries in the event.

“I was wondering what if there was no Japanese in the final when we are the hosts,” said the 21-year-old Tokyo Olympian, certain to make the 24-woman final.

“I need to be fighting with gymnasts from overseas in the individual all-around if I were to be the next ace (for Japan after Murakami),” she said.

No spectator cap has been set for the tournament, which has been categorized by the government as a test to use vaccination certificates and others to alleviate restrictions placed on public activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Gymnastics Federation said over 300 gymnasts from 56 countries and regions are taking part in the meet.

A crowd of 1,816 was in attendance to watch the first gymnastics worlds held in Japan since 2011.

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