Takeru Kitazono: A star is born
The winner of five individual gold medals and a team silver, Japanese artistic gymnast Takeru Kitazono was one of the undoubted stars of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018.
In taking gold in the all-around, floor, rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar competitions, the 15-year-old star became the first artistic gymnast to win five gold medals at a single Youth Olympic Games, the first Japanese athlete to win five individual golds at any Olympic Games, and the first athlete in his sport to achieve the feat since Vitaly Scherbo did so for the Unified Team (the former Soviet Union) at Barcelona 1992.
The only competition Kitazono in which failed to win a medal was the pommel horse, where he placed sixth.
Dubbed “Kohei Number Two” after his fabled compatriot Kohei Uchimura, a three-time Olympic gold medallist and six-time world all-around champion, Kitazono exceeded expectations at the Parque Polideportivo Roca, showcasing his unique talent again and again and making light of the pressure on his shoulders.
“I’m very happy and I think the results of my training schedule were there for all to see,” said the prodigiously talented teenager. “I came here to win and I’m happy with what I achieved.”
On being told of his new status as the only Japanese athlete ever to have won five individual golds at the same Games, he said: “I didn’t know. To be honest, I’m very surprised to hear that.”
Neither he nor his coach are going to rest on their laurels, however, with attention already turning to the upcoming Olympic Summer Games, to be held in his home country: “I’m looking to go out and perform the same at Tokyo 2020 and I’m going to train even harder to make that happen.”
I’m looking to go out and perform the same at Tokyo 2020 and I’m going to train even harder to make that happen Takeru Kitazono Japan - Takeru Kitazono Japan
Takeru will have the advantage of competing on home soil at the next Games, though he has enjoyed plenty of vociferous support in Argentina too. “There was a little bit of pressure with the fans shouting for me,” he said with his five golds hanging from his neck. “I never thought I’d get such a good reception. Luckily, it gave me the strength to go out and get the best possible result.”
And with that, world gymnastics latest rising star turned to take selfies with a very long queue of admirers, whose number is sure to grow in the years to come.