• Kyodo

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Mai Murakami had a word of gratitude for gymnastics as the first Japanese woman to medal in an individual event at the Olympics called it a career on Monday.

The 25-year-old claimed the bronze medal in the floor exercise at the Tokyo Olympics over the summer when she finished fifth in the all-around, also the best a Japanese woman has achieved at any Games.

“I wouldn’t be living each day with motivation had it not been for gymnastics. I’m happy to have met her,” she said at a press conference at Nippon Sport Science University, where she will take up a coaching role.

Known for her lower-body strength, Murakami helped Japan come fourth in the Olympics for the first time in 48 years at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 before she won the floor exercise at the 2017 world championships and came second in the all-around a year later.

After her heroics at the home Olympics, Murakami closed her career in style in October by winning the gold medal in the floor exercise and becoming the first Japanese to claim two world titles.

“I’m happy to be retiring in the best manner possible. I’m happy to have rewritten the record,” she said. “Japanese women need to get stronger. (As a coach) I want to make every contribution to get many gymnasts to taste the joy of winning a medal.”

She said retirement was something in her mind while rehabbing from a lower-back injury in 2019, but one goal drove her on.

“(Gymnastics) was a sport that gave me a dream,” she said. “I wondered what the point was in practicing when not knowing what would happen following the games’ one-year postponement, but the clear aim of medaling there allowed me to persevere.”

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