Rising Japanese generation takes two golds as Junior Worlds begin

The Japanese men’s team took the first gold medal of the first Junior World Championships ever held in gymnastics, while tiny Shinnosuke Oka, far left, won the men’s all-around title. Photo: Volker Minkus/FIG.

The Japanese men’s team took the first gold medal of the first Junior World Championships ever held in gymnastics, while tiny Shinnosuke Oka, far left, won the men’s all-around title. Photo: Volker Minkus/FIG.

The Japanese trio of Shinnosuke Oka, Ryosuke Doi and Takeru Kitazono ruled over the first day of competition at gymnastics’s inaugural Junior World Championships Thursday in Gyor, Hungary, accounting for both gold medals given.

With smooth, difficult routines performed with their preternatural calm, the Japanese were the class of the 34 team field in the men’s team competition, which featured a three-up, two-count format, tallying 162.754 for the team gold ahead of Ukraine, 159.828. 

Bolstered by a competition-high 13.9 on pommel horse, the diminutive Oka, a tiny 15-year-old coached by 2004 Olympic team gold medalist Isao Yoneda, edged older teammate Doi, 17, for the all-around title, tallying 80.674 to the 17-year-old’s 80.447. 

“I’m really pleased, but it doesn’t feel like I should have won, it doesn’t seem real,” Oka commented. For his part, Doi confessed that he had hoped to win individual gold, though he felt he could have done better. “But we have done well as a team,” he added.

The talented Kitazono, 16, who won five gold medals at last summer’s Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, finished tied for third with emerging Ukrainian star Illia Kovtun. But since Kitazono was only the third-ranking Japanese team member in the two-per-country individual competition, Kovtun was awarded the sole bronze. 

“I could have done better,” said Kitazono, who had the highest mark on parallel bars (14.4). “Everyone sees me as the person pulling the Japanese along, but I have finished third in our team. I am happy for my teammates though, and I am not complaining.” "

“It’s fantastic to get a medal,” Kovtun, 15, remarked.

2018 Youth Olympic rings silver medalist Felix Dolci, who despite his young age has been hailed as the future of Canadian men’s gymnastics, posted the highest score on vault (14.533) and finished fifth, while China’s Yang Haonan, sixth, was the best on still rings (13.733) and would have been in the medals had it not been for his 11.633 on high bar, which ranked him 69th on the event.

A young, artistic Italian men’s team led by Lorenzo Bonicelli and a quad-twist tumbling Lorenzo Casalli, seventh and ninth all-around, respectively, surprised China for the team bronze, the Italian men’s best team result on the world level in more than 100 years. Italy’s last podium appearance came at the 1913 World Championships, when they won bronze.

Elsewhere, Korea’s Ryu Sunghyun was the top performer on floor exercise (13.966), flipping into pole position for Saturday’s floor final, while France’s Lucas Desanges was the top qualifier to Sunday’s event finals on high bar (13.366).

Men’s Event Finals qualifiers

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