Four of the five members of the 2016 Olympic team will compete at Worlds this year. Photograph: Silvia Vatteroni

After last weekend’s All-Japan Event Championships, the Japanese gymnastics federation has officialised the team that will compete at the World Championships in Montreal, Canada, next October. The four gymnasts selected to represent Japan are two-time Olympian Asuka Teramoto and 2016 Olympians Mai Murakami, Sae Miyakawa and Aiko Sugihara.

The Japanese team will have plenty of international experience under their belt, and have a real chance of winning individual medals. This year’s Worlds includes no team competition. Four athletes for each nation are allowed to compete, three of which on each event.

Mai Murakami and Aiko Sugihara were named to the team last month, after placing first and second at the NHK Trophy, with Teramoto narrowly finishing third. She was expected of gaining a specialist spot, because of her strong bars and beam work. Miyakawa, on the other hand, struggled in the all around, because of her weaker events, bars and beam, but, she was expected on gaining the other specialist spot for her world-class work on vault and floor.

MAI MURAKAMI is the star of the team. This year, she won the All-Japan Championships in April and the NHK Trophy in May, posting the top scores on beam and floor at both. She scores very well on vault, thanks to her powerful DTY and on floor, she has scored 14.0 or better on all her five floor routines. She also owes the highest floor score in the world this year, a 14.250. She is also incredibly consistent, she has hit every routine since the Rio Olympics so far!


AIKO SUGIHARA is currently injured, but has plenty of time to go back to full strength before Worlds. Despite the injury, at All-Japan Sugihara made the bars and floor finals, finishing fourth on bars with a 13.400 and fifth on floor with a 13.250. Her execution was spoiled only by minor landing deductions, which can be easily fixed once she is back on top form.


SAE MIYAKAWA is potentially very strong on vault and floor. On vault, she performs a Rudi and a DTY, which gives her one of the highest combined difficulty scores in the world right now, just behind China’s Wang Yan. She performs the same two vaults as France’s European champion Coline Devillard, but Miyakawa has better execution. At All-Japan, for example, she scored an excellent total of 14.850 (VT1: 15.100 and VT2: 14.600). On floor, her difficulty is a 6.2, the highest in the world by half a point right now. She performs four incredible tumbling passes: a front full to double front, a full-twisting double layout, a double double and a double layout. Her execution has been up and down this year, but if she hits, as she did during the All-Japan event finals, she is virtually unbeatable.


Finally, ASUKA TERAMOTO is very strong on bars and beam. Last week at All-Japan, she won silver on bars with a 13.800 and gold on beam with a 14.100, which is a huge score, considering that she had a big wobble on her Onodi. Despite being selected as an event specialist, Teramoto is also a strong all arounder, and could easily replace Sugihara in the all around, if the latter is unable to be back to full strength by October.


Overall, after a historic fourth-place finish in the team competition at the Olympics last summer, Japan keeps showing great depth and significant improvement. They certainly aim to increase difficulty and improve execution, with an eye on the next Olympic Games, which will take place at home, in Tokyo, in 2020.


By Talitha Ilacqua

Axact

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WOGymnastikA is a blog turned website which brings you the latest updates on women’s artistic gymnastics as well as exclusive interviews with your favorite gymnasts. If you are interested in joining our team, please contact us on wogymnastika@gmail.com .

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