‘He who shines big’. This is the translation of the name of, once again, artistic gymnastics world champion, Daiki Hashimoto (86,132). And that’s how he shone, his gold, and the one he got on Tuesday with Japan at the World Cup in Antwerp. He is the first man to win two consecutive world titles since Japanese legend Kohei Uchimura did so. He dusted off the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics that made him the youngest winner in history in all aroundand demonstrated how and why he dethroned the dominating gymnasts of the last decade.
The pressure took its toll on him during the first few rotations. But the Japanese was used to pressure since his childhood, having two older brothers who were gymnasts, and he pulled himself together. He got rid of the ghosts of his two compatriots overtaking him in the standings, and climbed onto the podium after a long fight with his teammate Kenta Chiba. Ukrainian Illia Kovtun (84,998) won silver and Frederick Richard (84,332) won bronze. It had been 13 years since an American had stood on the eventing podium. The Spanish Thierno Diallo (79.932), for his part, sneaked into his first final of a world championship after three losses and the discomfort of Néstor Abad, although he only achieved twentieth position.
The 24 gymnasts came out one by one, ready for the queen test. The best athletes in the classification started on the ground. Hashimoto had to keep a close eye on the very young American Fred Richard, who quickly placed first with a 14.633, and the British James Hall and Jake Jarman. Without forgetting her compatriot Kenta Chiba, who finished first in the classification in what is her first World Cup despite her seniority. The pressure seemed to take its toll on the Japanese, who did not nail his landings and almost fell at the end of his routine. He couldn’t get more than a 13,466. He did not start well, and fell to 17th place. In vault, the Turkish Ahmet Onder stood out, second at the end of the first rotation, and in rings Sun Wei, star apparatus for China.
On the ring rack, Hashimoto couldn’t afford to fail. Serious, quiet. He took advantage of the 30 seconds that the judges give him to start his routine. Strong, he rejoiced at the start, and when he fell he celebrated, but he did not smile. He knew everything that was at stake, and he made up positions by scoring a 14.366. Although not enough: Chiba worked cleaner, he put himself first and became Hashimoto’s direct rival by scoring a 14.800 on the same device. A point separated them. In between were the Brazilian Diogo Soares, Wei, Jarman and Florian Lagenegger.
Spain did not suffer the same fate. Diallo came from twentieth position and rose three after overcoming his two worst apparatuses and scoring a 14.133 on vault, with a tenth of a penalty. Meanwhile, in rings, the best six were pressed together. Hashimoto was still nervous. He scored a 14,000 and shaved three tenths off Chiba, who was still ahead and who was smiling while sitting while the camera focused on him. And with a brilliant performance by Wei in parallel, he regained the first position that he could not achieve with China in the team final. Joining the party of the first six were the Belgian Luka Van Den Keybus, who was at home and the public let him know, and the Ukrainian Illia Kovtun, current parallel champion who demonstrated it by scoring a 15.166.
12 Olympic and world medals
Hashimoto maintained body heat with his coat. He concentrated by closing his eyes. They were halfway through the final. He played it on jump, and he nailed it with a triple pirouette. He celebrated with rage, with anxiety, the jury’s 15,000. It helped him put himself above his teammate Chiba, who stumbled on the jump and left the podium positions, but not Wei, who was leading.
The top six were less than one point away with two rotations left, and everything was yet to be decided. Kenta’s smiles contrasted with Daiki’s seriousness, who nailed the exercise on bars with a 14,800. But he still had the horizontal bar, his specialty. The medals were decided on the apparatus where Richard’s hand slipped and he fell flat. Where Hashimoto is also an Olympic champion, who delighted with a 14,500. And finally he laughed. Twice the Chinese Wei fell on colt, and another time Kenta did.
Both lost the podium, followed by Kovtoun, second, and Richard, third. Daiki put on the Japanese flag. He had done it again, and had increased his record: 12 Olympic and world medals. Daiki has already stated that his intention is to achieve what Uchimura could not: chain three Olympic titles. For now, he is already continuing his path in the world championships. And he has the age, the talent and the name.
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