Carlos Yulo, Murakami Mai win gold on last day at the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships

The Filipino gymnast added silver in the parallel bars for his fourth career medal at the World championships. In announcing her expected retirement, Murakami also took bronze for Japan in balance beam behind teammate Ashikawa.

By Scott Bregman and Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

It was a historic day of gold medallists Sunday (24 October) at the 2021 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan, with Carlos Yulo of the Philippines and Japan's Ashikawa Urara claiming titles in style.

Competition began with the men's vault final where Yulo, who is the only Filipino gymnast to win a medal at the worlds, made more history for his country and claimed the title.

"I am extremely happy today. I did my best. All the hard work paid off, but still it's not satisfying for me yet," said Yulo. "I won the gold [on vault] and another achievement for me on the parallel bars, but there is always something more. I want to reach my full potential as a gymnast."

Averaging a 14.916, Yulo executed two exceedingly clean vaults: a Kasamatsu double twist and a Dragulescu (handspring double front half out). Yonekura Hidenobu of Japan (14.866) was second, while Israel's Andrey Medvedev was the bronze medallist with a 14.649 average score.

Yulo told reporters afterward the gold medal had come on a special day: his sister's birthday.

"I said, 'Eliza, I'm really sorry that I'm not there and I don't have a gift for you. I'm going to do my best today and give you some gifts,'" said Yulo.

The win is a rebound for Yulo after missing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic final on the floor exercise, the event where he won the world title in 2019. In Saturday's competition, he failed to defend that title after incurring a .3 neutral deduction on his third tumbling pass for going outside the area.

"The Tokyo Olympics... I will never forget that feeling and that experience. I will use that every competition. I will remember it every time," said Yulo.

In the women's balance beam final, Ashikawa (14.100) and teammate Murakami Mai (13.733) finished first and third to claim their nation's fourth and fifth medals all-time on the event at the worlds. Prior to this event, Japan's three balance beam world medals had been claimed by 1964 Olympic team bronze medallist Tanaka-Ikeda Keiko (gold, 1954; bronze, 1958, 1962).

2017 world balance beam champion Pauline Schaefer-Betz was the silver medallist at 13.800.

Ashikawa was over the moon in topping the podium for the first time.

"This feels like a dream within a dream. Winning a medal here was a goal of mine but I never expected a gold", said the 18-year-old, who was sixth in the balance beam final at Tokyo 2020. "I’m thrilled.

A repeat title for Murakami on floor

Murakami continued her successful day with a dramatic win in the floor final. When the score originally flashed, it appeared that she would come up just short to Angelina Melnikova, who won the all-around title earlier in Kitakyushu, 14.000 to 13.966. But then, Murakami filled an inquiry into her difficulty score.

After judges reviewed the exercise, Murakami's difficult score went from 5.7 to 5.8, giving her a 14.066 and the gold medal. Melnikova's 14.000 mark gave her silver ahead of the USA's Leanne Wong (13.833).

"I know there was the inquiry and what not but I was going for it in the floor - and I won the gold medal I wanted so I’m happy about that," said Murakami afterward. "I never thought I’d win two medals so it’s been a great day."

Murakami previously won the floor world title in 2017. Ahead of these worlds, she said it could be her final competition and told the crowd at Kitakyushu Gymnasium that she indeed is quitting.

"Everyone, I am retiring as of today", she said during the closing ceremony of the championships. "And I leave with this gold medal for you all".

GettyImages-1347202962
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

China's Hu takes parallel bars, horizontal bar gold

On the parallel bars, China's Hu Xuwei claimed the title with a 15.466, just ahead of Yulo's 15.300. Hu's teammate Shi Cong (15.066) was the bronze medallist.

Yulo's silver medal gives him a fourth career medal at the world championships, having won gold (2019) and bronze (2018) on floor in addition to his two medals Sunday.

The final event of the competition, the men's horizontal bar, was a thriller that came down to the final routine from Hu. He soared to a second gold of the day with a 15.166 final score, just ahead of 2020 Olympic champion Hashimoto Daiki of Japan at 15.066. Team USA's Brody Malone took bronze with a 14.966.

The final also saw what could be the final performance of the legendary Uchimura Kohei, six-time world all-around champion and double Olympic all-around gold medallist.

Performing fourth, the 32-year-old, who has struggled with injuries since Rio 2016, was in fine form, nailing his double-twisting, double layout dismount to the delight of the crowd. But deductions on two high-flying catch-and-release elements kept his score down, and he finished sixth at 14.600.

Uchimura on this night did not appear to be in any hurry of making a call on his incomparable career.

"This meet just finished so it’s difficult for me to say one way or another, right here right now", he told Olympics.com. "What I do know is that I was reminded once again how tough and fun gymnastics is at the same time - to stick the landing in front of a crowd and appreciate what the sport is all about.

"I can’t just say right here right now, ‘Oh I gave it everything I have, I’m quitting’. I think I need time to think by myself and see what I really want to do from here".

After taking all-around gold in his first international event, China's Zhang Boheng decided to sit out Saturday's rings final and Sunday's parallel bars event.

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