Chiba Inspires Japan at Gymnastics World Championships

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kenta Chiba performs at world gymnastics championships in Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday.

ANTWERP, Belgium(AFP-Jiji) — Japanese world championships debutant Kenta Chiba put Japan on track to winning its first team title for eight years with an impressive performance on Saturday.

Japan led the field after four of six men’s qualifying sessions in Antwerp, keeping the USA at bay.

Chiba, 27, posted 85.799 points, the top score in the second of six qualifying sessions, with Kazuma Kaya second with 85.598.

Daiki Hashimoto, the reigning world and Olympic all-round champion, was below par and finished third overall and just third among his Japanese squad with a score of 85.432.

With just two gymnasts from each country allowed to go forward to the all-round final, Hashimoto benefited from the rules that allow a country to swap a competitor of their choice and he will take part in the final at the expense of the unfortunate Kaya.

The Americans, blending experienced campaigners like Tokyo Olympian Yul Moldauer and rookies like Paul Juda, snuck past the British squad.

On Sunday, seven-time Olympic medallist Simone Biles is set to return to global competition for the first time since her nightmare experience at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago.