Nerveless Hashimoto, 19, clinches coveted all-around gold for Japan

By: AFP      Published: 08:14 PM, 28 Jul, 2021
Nerveless Hashimoto, 19, clinches coveted all-around gold for Japan

Japanese teenager Daiki Hashimoto won the coveted men's all-around gymnastics title with a superb final horizontal bars routine at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old edged out China's Xiao Ruoteng with Russian world champion Nikita Nagornyy taking bronze.

Hashimoto succeeds compatriot Kohei Uchimura, the 2012 and 2016 all-around champion who chose not to go for a hat-trick after persistent shoulder injuries.

"The gold medal means a lot to me. All the hard work over the past five years have led to this medal," he said.

"First and foremost, I want to give it to my parents. I want to get it around their necks and thank them for supporting me."

After Japan took silver behind Nagornyy's Russians in the team event on Monday, Hashimoto was determined to go one better at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.

Placed third going into the final rotation, the horizontal bar, he seized his moment, putting in a near-flawless routine.

Waiting for his score wearing a broad smile and the Japanese flag over his shoulders, Hashimoto rightly sensed he'd done enough.

His 14.933 points lifted him to a total of 88.465, 0.4 clear of Xiao on 88.065.

"King" Kohei, as 32-year-old Uchimura is known, may have danced for the last time on the Olympic stage but in Hashimoto he looks to have a worthy successor -- perhaps a case of the king is dead, long live the king.

Hashimoto had defined his career objectives before the postponed Games begun as capturing all-around gold at the 2020, 2024 and 2028 Olympics.

He achieved the first of those three in some style, having led the list of 24 qualifiers into the final.

With the first six from qualifying drawn in one group all eyes were on Nagornyy in the opening floor exercise to see whether he would give his eponymous element, a triple pike he debuted at the European Championships, a run out.

The answer was no, the Russian world champion perhaps saving it for the apparatus final.

Hashimoto led, and after the pommel horse pulled over half a point clear.

But the next routine, the rings, shook up the top order, with Xiao edging compatriot Sun Wei and Nagornyy nipping ahead of Hashimoto.

The parallel bars were their penultimate port of call, with Nagornyy posting the top score to go second from Hashimoto ahead of the concluding horizontal bar as less than half a point split the front three.

After Xiao and Nagornyy had done their stuff the spotlight turned to Hashimoto, who ended with a double-double layout dismount which drew appreciation from the sprinkling of supporters, and more importantly, the blue-blazered judges.