Artistic Gymnastics

Murakami Mai tops All-Japan Championships prelims

The three-time Japanese all-around champion qualifies first for Saturday's final despite significant errors on floor and vault.

By Shintaro Kano ·

Murakami Mai was in tears on Thursday (10 December) despite qualifying in first place for the All-Japan Gymnastics Championships all-around final.

The three-time national all-around champion was upset at mistakes on the floor and the vault, but still managed to total 55.065 points at Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture to lead from the Hatakeda sisters, Chiaki (54.532) and Hitomi (54.265).

Defending champion Teramoto Asuka finished down in 18th with 52.032 as she continues her comeback from an Achilles injury. The top 24 of the 84 competitors reached Saturday's final.

"I was really fired up yesterday so I let myself down today," Murakami said, biting her lips during a press conference. "I was nervous. My heart is still pounding. I wasn’t making mistakes in practice.

"But this is only the prelims. I’ll take it out in the final."

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Rio 2016 Olympian Murakami started by leading the field with a 14.033 on the uneven bars - her weakest apparatus - but then nearly fell off the balance beam and scored 13.766.

Things got worse as she fell on her back during her floor routine (12.866).

She also botched her landing while attempting a Chusovitina on the vault (14.400).

Afterwards, the 24-year-old admitted it was difficult to prepare for a competition - with next year's Olympic Games in sight - amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's not easy working towards Tokyo and competing under these circumstances at the same time. My mind went blank (on the floor)," she said.

"There’s a lot I need to take away from the mistakes but I still went through first, which does give me a measure of confidence. I could have probably had a 57, 58 if it weren’t for the mistakes. I know today will flash back in the final so I need to regroup tomorrow."

The men's preliminaries featuring three-time Olympic gold medallist Uchimura Kohei, who says he is prioritising the horizontal bar, get underway on Friday.