Olympics-Gymnastics-Japanese Men’s Top Goal Is Beating China for Team Gold

REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships – Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium – October 8, 2023 Japan’s Daiki Hashimoto reacts after his routine on the horizontal bar during the men’s apparatus finals

TOKYO (Reuters) – Having missed the men’s gymnastics team title by a hair at Tokyo 2020, Japan are determined to beat their biggest rival China to take gold in Paris, setting that as their top priority with one month left to go until the Games begin.

Three years ago, the Russians beat Japan by 0.103 points – a sliver of a number that etched itself into the minds of the three Japanese gymnasts and their head coach who will be returning to the Olympics looking to erase those painful memories.

“We had the bitter experience of losing by the narrowest of margins, of 0.103,” all-around title holder Daiki Hashimoto told Reuters after a team training session in Tokyo last week.

“I want us to win that gold and enjoy the view from the podium.”

Revenge may not taste as sweet, though, as Japan and China will battle it out without Russia, with the country banned from taking part in team events over the war in Ukraine.

The three powerhouses have claimed every men’s team gold since the 1952 Helsinki Olympics with the exception of the Soviet-boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games when the United States took the title.

“After losing to Russia by 0.103 in Tokyo, we’ve been working hard towards Paris fueled by a sense of revenge, so there’s a part of me that’s a bit sad that they won’t be there,” said head coach Hisashi Mizutori, a former team gold medallist.

“Still, it’s a big chance for us to grab that medal so we’ll do what we need to do.”


A victory by Japan would extend the record it holds to eight team golds, and its athletes said they had every confidence to do so thanks to a well-balanced team and their superior collective “D-score,” or difficulty score, over China.

Based on simulations of the teams’ routines on the six apparatuses, Japan’s D-score tally was likely to top China’s, Mizutori said, meaning the key over the remaining weeks would be to polish the routines and minimize any mistakes.

“That was quite a surprise, since China had long had a higher D-score than Japan,” said Kazuma Kaya, who won bronze in the pommel horse in Tokyo.

“In that sense, we have the strongest five members this time.”

Led by Hashimoto, Japan took the World Championships title in October with a total score of 255.594 points – almost two points ahead of China – though the runners-up were without their ace all-rounder Zhang Boheng.

With 24-year-old Zhang added to the Olympic roster this time, China will be a formidable force, Mizutori said, allowing Japan little room for error.

Zhang is set to give Hashimoto a run for his money with the latter still nursing a finger injury that he said had him at 60% at last week’s training.

“I don’t think the pain will disappear completely but I want to get as close to 100% as possible” before Paris, he said, adding that he aimed to defend his all-around and horizontal bar titles, for a total haul of three gold medals.

Mizutani said he saw the make-up of the Paris squad as being similar to the one that took the crown in Rio in 2016. That five-man team comprised four members that conceded the gold in London 2012 and a young addition in Kenzo Shirai.

“We have experienced members and new members this time so it’s relatively similar, and the balance is really good,” Mizutani said.

“And just as the team in Rio had (seven-times Olympic medallist Kohei) Uchimura, we have Hashimoto so I think we can expect a similar result.”

Hashimoto and Kaya will be joined by Wataru Tanigawa, Takaaki Sugino and 20-year-old Shinnosuke Oka on the team.

Artistic gymnastics will run from July 27 to Aug. 5, with the men’s team final on July 29.