Japanese sports fans found a new hero at the 2019 Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships – a test event for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – with 20-year-old Hikaru Mori winning two gold medals.
It took Japan 55 years to win a women’s trampoline World Championship title, yet in the space of just 12 months Mori has now won three. First the Tokyo resident claimed the inaugural crown for her country, winning the synchronised gold in St Petersburg, Russia, in 2018 and then, in front of her increasingly besotted compatriots, Mori flipped her way to the team and individual titles over the weekend.
“I plan to keep smiling always, it makes me happy,” Mori said in Tokyo on Sunday after her individual gold secured Japan a spot in the women’s trampoline event at next year’s Olympic Games.
“Yesterday I heard a lot of noise but there were way more fans today. I could hear people saying it was going to be OK before I started and so I believed them,” added the gymnast, who later admitted to being happily surprised by the size and fervour of the crowds inside the new arena.
Mori may well have to get used to such adulation, with her coach revealing that while World Championship golds are very much welcomed, the focus has always been and remains Olympic success.
The two-time defending women’s Olympic trampoline champion, Rosie MacLennan (CAN) now knows she has a real battle on her hands if she is to secure an unprecedented hat-trick, after she finished third, behind Mori and a second Japanese gymnast, Chisato Doihata.
The Canadian does have the consolation of having booked a ticket for her country to the Games next year, with China, Russia, Great Britain and France also securing spots in the women’s competition after their gymnasts reached the individual final.
In the men’s event, China’s Gao Lei confirmed his status as a firm favourite for Olympic gold next year after he became the first male trampoline gymnast in history to win four successive individual world titles.
The 27-year-old, who could finish only third at Rio 2016, immediately confirmed that his thoughts have already turned towards Tokyo 2020.
“I will keep training to try and win the gold here next year,” Gao said. “When I climb on a trampoline I feel very calm. I didn’t used to but now I feel very confident.”
The Rio 2016 men’s champion, Uladzislau Hancharou (BLR), surprisingly failed to qualify for Sunday’s final, after an error-riddled display in Saturday’s semi-final. But he did have the consolation of seeing team-mate Ivan Litvinovich win an Olympic place for Belarus after the 18-year-old won silver behind Gao.
Japan, France and Russia also booked their return tickets to the Ariake Gymnastics Centre for the Tokyo 2020 men’s trampoline competition.
The new arena proved itself an ideal stage for the world’s best gymnasts. Built to the specifications of traditional Japanese craftsmanship, the 12,000-capacity arena boasts 90-metre wooden beams stretching across one of the largest timber roofs in the world which results in a completely pole-free, open performance area.
“It’s an amazing stadium,” said Katsufumi Tasaki, part of Japan’s gold-medal winning men’s synchronised pair. “When I started jumping all I could hear was the crowd, but luckily then I blocked them out.”
Japan also claimed the women’s synchronised title to round off a fantastic championships for the home nation. Elsewhere, Russia shone, winning both the men’s and women’s tumbling titles while the irrepressible Mikhail Zalomin (RUS) picked up his fifth men’s double mini world crown.