Japan will kick off its Olympic qualification process at the All-Japan Championships this weekend, where all of the country’s best WAG competitors are expected to be in attendance with the hope of getting one step closer to the Tokyo team.
The field is led by 2016 Olympian and 2018 world all-around silver medalist Murakami Mai, who won the all-around title at last year’s All-Japan Championships and is likely to be the country’s top contender for the Olympic Games. She’s joined by her 2016 Olympic teammates Teramoto Asuka, Sugihara Aiko, Uchimura Yuki, and Miyakawa Sae, as well as 2018 and 2019 world championships team members Hatakeda Hitomi (who placed second at nationals in 2020) and Kajita Nagi.
Others to watch here include newcomers Soma Ui and Matsuda Towa. Soma, who was originally an elite-level gymnast in the United States until moving to Japan last year, was third overall at nationals last year, while Matsuda was fifth there in her senior national debut, putting up big scores on vault and bars.
There’s also Sakaguchi Ayaka, the 2019 Asian Championships silver medalist on vault who surprised to finish fourth at nationals in 2020, veteran Hiraiwa Yuna, a standout on beam and floor who came back to the all-around last year to begin making a case for herself after missing out in 2016, Hatakeda Chiaki, who struggles with consistency but has the potential to be one of the top all-arounders in the country, and Ashikawa Urara, who has mathematically locked down the apparatus world cup berth for beam, where she’s utterly brilliant.
According to the Japanese federation, three of the four competitors in Tokyo will be selected based on their all-around performances in qualifications and the all-around final at this week’s national championships and then at next month’s NHK Trophy. The top three gymnasts based on their three-day all-around score between the two meets will automatically be named to the team.
The fourth and final spot will be chosen based on an athlete’s potential to best contribute to the team, with all results from the current season counting into the decision.
The women will compete in the qualification round on Thursday, April 15, and the top 24 will then move on to the all-around final, to be held Saturday, April 17. The final subdivision of qualifications – which will feature all of the key contenders – will be streamed through a Watch Party (the federation hosted a lottery that will give 1,000 fans the chance to watch), while the final will air live on NHK.
A full list of competitors is below.
Article by Lauren Hopkins