20-20 vision: Hashimoto Daiki sees the light, all the way to Paris 2024

A year on from Tokyo 2020, the reigning Olympic men's gymnastics all-around champion is determined to defend his title and bring the team gold back to Japan. The process starts at the world championships in Liverpool this autumn.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

“I see the path”.

True words of enlightenment from a soon-to-be 21-year-old Olympic champion.

The Olympic champion is Hashimoto Daiki, who one year ago on Thursday (28 July), was crowned the new Olympic men’s all-around champion at Tokyo 2020.

He succeeded then two-time defending champion and the GOAT of men’s gymnastics, Uchimura Kohei, who only competed on the horizontal bar due to the wear and tear on his once superhuman body.

The torch, officially, had been passed on and since, Hashimoto has been using it to light his way down the path to Paris 2024.

“It flew by me”, Hashimoto said of the past year in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com, ahead of Tokyo’s one-year anniversary on 23 July.

“Even after the Tokyo Olympics, there were a slew of competitions. I kept busy and a year was gone before I knew it.

“It was just a very intense year”.

Hashimoto on double gold at Tokyo 2020

Hashimoto also won gold on the high bar (Uchimura failed the reach the final) and helped Japan to silver in the team event.

He says to this day, he still watches his performances from last summer when he was in “a zone” like he had never been in before.

The show he put on in Tokyo has become the gold standard to him, one that was so well executed that it even caught Hashimoto himself off guard.

“I now know how locked in I was at the time”, the Chiba Prefecture native said at the state-of-the-art gymnasium of his school, Juntendo University.

“I watch it, quite a lot actually. At Tokyo, my body moved really well. I had full control of my body and when that happens, it naturally leads to good results.

“I don’t think I made a single mistake at the Olympics and that’s something I’d never done at any competition.

“I’m still surprised with the performance I had at the Games”.

Hashimoto said being able to turn confidence into conviction has set himself up well for Paris, mentally.

“My goal was to win an Olympic gold medal. I knew I could do it - and I did it”, he said.

“I felt my own strength, my own powers which made me No. 1 in the world.

“It gave me the confidence to fight with my whole career ahead of me.

“I learned that if I perform to potential, the results will take care of themselves.

“Also just because I won gold I can’t get complacent. I have to keep working to get better. That’s what I figured out”.

Heir apparent

Hashimoto puts a lot of thought into his words, which he doesn’t mince and are usually straight as an arrow.

He has a direct way of getting his point across, similar to the way Uchimura used to when he did media.

Hashimoto was 19 during his first Games, where he became the youngest-ever Olympic male all-around champion. His gold on the high bar was Japan’s first in 37 years.

The following October at the world championships in Kitakyushu, Japan - a month before, he competed at the national collegiate championships - Hashimoto was runner-up in both the all-around and the horizontal bar, a perfectly respectable result all things considered.

The individual accolades are starting to pile up and should continue to do so for Hashimoto over the years. But ask him what his upcoming goals are and he doesn’t hesitate.

Winning the team event - one of the most popular Olympic events across all sports in Japan - is hugely important to Hashimoto.

There is a maturity and selflessness about Hashimoto that are beyond his years.

“At the world championships in Liverpool this year, we have the team event.

“I want us to win the team gold and ride that to the all-around gold.

“We’ve missed out on the team gold the last few years. We need to come together and perform well as a team. That is the goal”.

Hashimoto wants to lead Japan to a gold in the team event at Paris 2024.
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

I can see clearly now

Hashimoto will forever be grateful that Tokyo 2020 took place. He knows it took a lot of sacrifice, from a lot of people who didn’t gain a thing, for the Games to happen. All the frontline workers, the volunteers, the backroom staff. He realises they made Tokyo 2020 a possibility.

Yet not much has changed with Hashimoto in the last year, despite the medals and newfound attention. None of it has gone to his head.

He hasn’t gone on a splurge as someone his age might. When Hashimoto turned 20 last year on 7 August, he bought himself a nice, new wallet but that’s about it.

The legacy of Tokyo 2020 for Hashimoto is indescribable because it’s intangible and ever-lasting.

He is enlightened, which allows him to see the path. And because of it, he can visualise himself in Paris two years from now - on top of the podium, of course.

“I see myself winning the team gold, the all-around gold", Hashimoto said.

“My biggest goal is to outdo my performance from Tokyo. If I can do that, I’m convinced I can win both the team and the all-around in Paris.

“Of course results, hitting targets are important. But the focus is to perform to the best of my ability

“Then I will have shown a better version of me”.

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