July 28, 2021

By Steve Keating

TOKYO (Reuters) – Daiki Hashimoto kept Japan’s grip on the Olympic men’s gymnastics all-around crown in breathtaking style on Wednesday, leaving the few watching inside Ariake arena roaring and a bitter China filing an inquiry.

With the host nation’s “King” Kohei Uchimura, Olympic all-around champion in 2012 and 2016, choosing not to defend his title in Tokyo, it was left to his heir apparent Hashimoto to step up and take care of business.

The 19-year-old did not disappoint, posting a winning total of 88.465 to push China’s Xiao Ruoteng, the 2017 world all-around champion, into second place by just 0.400 of a point.

Russian Nikita Nagornyy, the reigning world all-around champion, took bronze.

“Am I his (Uchimura’s) heir? Well, we need to take what Uchimura gave us, better it and take Japanese gymnastics even further,” smiled Hashimoto. “I am quite happy I followed him in winning the all-around championship.”

Going into the final rotation with Xiao leading and all the medal contenders finishing on the high bar, the gold had looked headed back to China for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

But then Hashimoto, the last man to compete, produced a spectacular routine that earned him the top mark of 14.933, enough to vault him over Xiao to top spot on the podium.

“I don’t feel pressure, I feel tension,” said a coolly composed Hashimoto, who becomes the man to wear the all-around crown. “In the end, I was trying to beat myself.”

“I took my tension and tried to enjoy my final performance.”

As Hashimoto was stepping up to take his turn, China had filed an inquiry over Xiao’s mark of 14.066 which they viewed as too low. A few minutes later it was announced that the inquiry had been rejected and the score was unchanged.

Adding insult to injury, the gold moved Japan past China into top spot on the Tokyo 2020 medal table.

With a quality field featuring the reigning and two former world champions, it was no shock that the medals came down to the final apparatus with the top four all within a half-point.

But it certainly was a surprise that Hashimoto, the gymnast with the thinnest resume, picked up his second medal of the Tokyo Games after helping Japan to a silver in the team event.

“Right now, this is the happiest moment,” said Hashimoto. “I can’t express my feelings in words.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Tokyo, additional reporting Elaine Lies; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Hugh Lawson)