The Japanese federation named two men to its 2020 Olympic Games team on Sunday, with Hashimoto Daiki and Kaya Kazuma automatically earning their spots based on their finishes at the NHK Trophy.
Hashimoto, who won a bronze medal as a member of the 2019 world championships team, and Kaya, a five-time world medalist and member of the gold medal-winning 2015 team, finished first and second at the NHK Trophy, where their combined all-around scores included their performances in qualifications and in the final at All-Japan Championships in April as well as this weekend’s competition.
The wins here and at All-Japan were 19-year-old Hashimoto’s first major victories at home. After qualifying in seventh at nationals, Hashimoto upset all of the top All-Japan competitors with an 88.532 in the final, putting him in first place overall coming into the NHK meet. His score here was third-best of the day, but he managed to maintain his lead by just over a tenth ahead of Kaya, who was third at All-Japan and jumped up to second this weekend with the top all-around performance of the meet.
Kaya upset two-time world bronze medalist Tanigawa Wataru for the second automatic berth. Tanigawa, who was second overall at All-Japan Championships, ended up third here after a miss on high bar. Also getting close was Miwa Teppei, who had the second-best single day all-around score here and the fourth-best combined score, while Kitazono Takeru, who led qualifications at All-Japan Championships, wound up ninth overall due to elbow injuries that caused him to downgrade, though he should still be solidly in contention for the Olympic team if he can get back to full strength.
The final two spots for the team will be determined based on All-Japan Event Championships next month. The third spot will go to a gymnast who placed in the top five overall at the NHK Trophy, which includes Tanigawa, Miwa, and Takeda Kazuyuki, while the fourth spot will go to a top 10 finisher, adding Sugino Takaaki, Maeno Fuya, Matsumi Kazuki, Kitazono, and Chiba Kenta to that list.
Those hoping to be selected will need to best complement the two already named to the team, with pommels, rings, vault, and high bar most notably where the focus will lie. Tanigawa and a healthy Kitazono would make for an ideal squad, but given Kitazono’s injuries, I think Miwa, who has standout work on vault and high bar, and Sugino, a top pommels and high bar guy, should be next in line.
In addition to selecting a team for the Olympic Games, the All-Japan Event Championships will also determine the gymnast who will take the individual berth Japan won based on its finish at the 2018 world championships. There are several specialists in the mix, with the legendary Uchimura Kohei most notable thanks to his consistent 15+ routines on high bar this year.
The Japanese federation also selected the women’s Olympic team this weekend, with 2016 Olympian Murakami Mai leading a group that includes her Rio teammate Sugihara Aiko, two-time world championships competitor Hatakeda Hitomi, and comeback queen Hiraiwa Yuna, who will make her major senior international debut in Tokyo at age 22.
Article by Lauren Hopkins