Japan's star gymnast Mai Murakami announces retirement after Tokyo 2020
The announcement came at Japan's Senior Championships in Fukui Prefecture where she won the women's competition with 56.665 points.
"I am putting everything into making Tokyo my grand finale," said the 23-year-old who was not selected to compete at this year's World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart due to injury woes.
That decision was controversial given that the Japanese team for Worlds was announced in early June, nearly four months prior to competition. By contrast, Russia announced its World Championships team on 28 August while the U.S. women won't name their squad until a training camp scheduled for Sept. 21-26.
The 2017 World floor exercise champion's 56-plus total in the all-around this week would surely come in handy for a Japanese team that still needs to qualify for next year's Olympic Games. In fact, that score is the highest all-around total recorded this season by a Japanese woman and the 10th best score in the world, according to TheGymter.net.
Murakami finished runner up to American superstar Simone Biles at last year's worlds thus becoming the first Japanese woman to win a World Gymnastics Championships all-around silver medal.
The Tokyo native was world champion in the floor exercise in 2017 and played a vital role securing Japan's fourth place finish in the women's team event at Rio 2016, their best result in 48 years.
One last push
Lower back pain prevented her from competing in her country's selection events for the World Championships but Murakami intends to end her stellar career on a high note.
"The only thing on my mind is giving it my all until Tokyo, when I will make a break," she revealed without saying what her plans are after retirement.