Murakami Mai: "I’m going into the Worlds thinking this is the end for me"

Eager to perform in front of fans one last time, the Japanese GOAT of women's gymnastics will likely bow out following her sixth Worlds starting on Monday in Kitakyushu, Japan.

3 min By Shintaro Kano
(Picture by 2021 Getty Images)

Tokyo 2020 floor bronze medallist Murakami Mai said on Friday (15 October) that she will likely call it a career with the World gymnastics championships starting next week in Kitakyushu, Japan.

The 25-year-old Murakami will compete in the floor and balance beam at what will be her sixth championships.

"The Olympics was the culmination of my career and I gave it my absolute 100 percent", Murakami said following podium training at Kitakyushu General Gymnasium.

"But to have the two big events, the Olympics and the World championships, in your home country in the same year, it almost never happens.

"It’s a rare opportunity so I wanted to take it and I’m going into the Worlds thinking this is the end for me".

Murakami said she considered retiring after her second Olympic Games appearance this summer but decided to stick around for the worlds because she wanted to compete before the home crowd for one last time.

Tokyo 2020 was held without spectators as part of the Games' Covid-19 countermeasures.

"I was able to become an Olympic medallist but the one thing that gnawed at me was that we didn’t have a crowd", she said.

Murakami Mai posing with the bronze medal won in the women's floor event at Tokyo 2020.
Murakami Mai posing with the bronze medal won in the women's floor event at Tokyo 2020. (2021 Getty Images)

Retiring as Japan's most decorated female gymnast in history

"This time, we have an opportunity to perform in front of fans and I want everyone to see me one last time. I won’t care about results. Even if I don’t qualify for the finals I don’t care.

"As long as I’m happy with the way I perform, that’s good enough for me".

Barring that she does not have a change of heart, Murakami bows out as the most decorated female Japanese gymnast of all-time.

At Tokyo 2020, she captained the women's team for the hosts who ended up fifth.

Murakami finished fifth in the all-around, the best-ever result by a Japanese female athlete. By netting bronze in the floor - her signature event - she became the first woman from her country to medal in an Olympic event final.

She also won gold in the floor at the 2017 World championships in Montreal and an all-around silver the following year in Doha.

Of all the fans Murakami, who made her Games debut at Rio 2016, wants to perform for, there is one in particular: her mother.

"I want her to take one final look at me in person, not through television. I’ve been in gymnastics 22 years and in the latter half of my career she’s watched me compete live a lot.

"She let me be me. (After the postponement) she heard me say I want to quit so many times and she said to listen to what my heart tells me - even after the Olympics.

"This hasn't been easy but I still wanted to perform in front of a crowd and she said she would be there, to cheer for me in person the last time. I want put on a good show for her".

It remains to be seen how close to her Tokyo 2020 form Murakami can be in. She said that her left ankle has been hurting since last week and was visibly in pain during training on Friday.

"Last Tuesday my left ankle started hurting. I didn’t do anything to it in particular but it started hurting.

"It’s pretty bad. I haven’t been to the hospital yet so I don’t know what it is exactly but I couldn’t even walk on it. I’ve been just getting by since I got here.

"I still have two days though. I just need to rest the ankle and be ready to put on a performance hopefully that will be close to what I showed at the Games".

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