With the conclusion of the All Japan Championships event finals competition last weekend, Japan has once again become the first nation to name their full World Championships squad, adding first-year senior Sae Miyakawa to the previously announced team, joining Natsumi Sasada, Aiko Sugihara, Asuka Teramoto, Yuki Uchiyama, and Sakura Yumoto.
The first five were named after the all-around championships and the NHK Cup, held in April and May. They received the honor after finishing in the top five in the all-around, with new faces Sugihara, Yumoto, and Uchiyama defeating 2014 Worlds team members Wakana Inoue, Yu Minobe, and Mai Murakami. These three were given a second chance at the team as they contended for the final spot, one held for an event specialist, and while Minobe and Murakami won the All Japan beam and floor titles, they were no match for the 15-year-old Miyakawa, who blew the competition away with a huge 14.925 average on vault.
Miyakawa showed an impressive handspring Rudi, exploding off the table to get awesome power while demonstrating clean form and twisting technique throughout. Aside from some bent knees on the landing, this was a killer exercise, earning a 15.25 to get her started. With a DTY as her second vault earning a 14.6, no one could touch her, and she should easily find herself a big medal contender on the event this fall.
Also known for her impressive tumbling on floor, Miyakawa hit a solid performance in qualifications to finish first on the event with a 14.6, though a fall on her front full to immediate punch tucked double front put her in 5th place with a 13.65. Her finals routine still had its moments, however, including a gorgeous full-twisting double layout opening pass, a double layout with a slight bounce back, and a stuck double double to finish. Yes, she ends with a double double. A hit routine could definitely land her in the Worlds final, making her Japan’s best shot at individual success in the coming year in addition to a huge boost to their vault and floor scores.
Murakami was Miyakawa’s biggest competition for the spot, and though she won the floor title, just doesn’t have quite as much to offer the team overall. Her vaults aren’t as difficult (she earns nearly a full point lower than her younger teammate on average) and her floor has unfortunately been pretty hit-or-miss, though she did do well to hit both of her routines last weekend. Opening with a solid double double in finals, she also had a clean double layout, 1.5 to front full, and an excellent triple full to wrap things up with a 14.45 for gold, though this was unfortunately too little too late.
These two aside, the event finals were a teeny bit messy, especially for some of those who have already secured their team spots. Teramoto won the bars title while placing 6th on beam after a struggle there, exactly the opposite of how she did in prelims, where she flubbed bars to qualify 4th but hit beam with a 14.25. Sasada missed the beam final after earning just a 13.4 there in qualifications, and though she made it to floor finals with a 13.9, she fell in competition to place 8th with just a 12.55.
Sugihara, this year’s NHK all-around champion and probably the most consistent among the Japanese all season, had excellent qualification routines and finished with the bronze on beam after posting a 13.9 and a silver on floor to tie Uchiyama with a 14.2, but fell in the bars final to place 8th with a 12.95, her first big mistake of 2015. Uchiyama meanwhile missed out on the bars final, but earned a 13.65 on beam in addition to her floor silver, while Yumoto, competing just on beam, posted a massive 15.1 in qualifications only to struggle in the final for a 13.85.
Fighting to reclaim a spot on the Worlds team after attending last year, Minobe won the beam title with a 14.65 while also posting a 13.3 on bars. She likely would have been a contender for the team over Yumoto had she not fallen on vault in April’s all-around final and on her NHK floor routine; while Yumoto is pretty untouchable on beam when she hits, Minobe is the stronger all-arounder but these fluke falls pushed her into 7th place in the rankings, though she’ll at the very least likely be named alternate if she hasn’t already.
Minobe and Inoue, who failed to make finals on both bars and beam, are part of their nation’s team for the Summer Universiade, however, alongside Sasada, Teramoto, and Yumoto. Their biggest competition at these Games include Russia and Australia.
Other medalists in Tokyo included Kiko Kuwajima with an average of 14.375 for silver on vault and with a 13.95 for silver on beam, Honoka Koga with a 14.15 for silver on bars, and Yumika Nakamura with a 13.7 for bronze on bars.
Article by Lauren Hopkins