Japan Sweeps Team Titles at Junior Worlds
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Japan Sweeps Team Titles at Junior Worlds

Yamaguchi Sara, Mizuno Mika, Nakamura Haruka, and Kawakami Saki

It’s been an incredible couple of days for Japan at the junior world championships!

The Japanese men were the ones to beat in Antalya, and with barely a flinch, they soared nearly four points ahead of the rest of the field to recapture the gold after also winning the team competition four years ago. While their WAG counterparts were not as safe coming into the meet with the women from the United States just a few steps ahead across the board, the Japanese women performed brilliantly to take advantage of a few of their rival’s mistakes to win a gold medal of their own, a massive improvement compared to the juniors’ 11th-place finish in 2019.

It was clear the women’s team was going to be a podium contender here. With star all-arounder Yamaguchi Sara, vault and floor standout Mizuno Mika, and stunning bar- and beam-worker Nakamura Haruka, this was one of the strongest teams in the competition on paper, but none of the athletes were at all experienced internationally. Going to the largest junior competition in the world is a big step up from a domestic national meet or a small invitational, but all three women here performed almost exactly as expected to count mostly hit routines, propelling them to a 104.230, more than two points ahead of the United States to earn the team title.

Yamaguchi was a star for the program, doing some of her best work on vault, bars, and beam to count scores on all three events and to earn a 52.065 in the all-around, which was enough to qualify her in first place to that final in addition to getting her into the bars and beam finals. Nakamura also looked better I’ve seen her, contributing scores to the team on every apparatus but vault while qualifying third into the all-around final with a 50.399 and also making the bars and floor finals. While beam is typically a standout apparatus for her, a couple of falls held her back considerably, though with Mizuno also having a rough set, the team counted her 11.8. Beam aside, Mizuno was fabulous on her two best events, contributing a 13.766 for her Yurchenko double on vault and a 13.166 on floor, where she qualified in first place.

The U.S. women were also an incredible team on paper, and were absolutely the team to beat here, but while inexperience and nerves didn’t matter at all for the Japanese women, the U.S. ended up stumbling a number of times, counting two falls on beam as well as a fall on bars, and with Hezly Rivera – my top pick for the all-around gold – slipping on the vault table to crash to her knees and receive a zero, they also couldn’t rely on a few extra tenths she was capable of adding there.

Rivera did great work on bars and floor to qualify in third and second place on these events, and her beam was a little shaky, but would have been one of the top sets in the competition had she not unfortunately fallen on the double pike. Not counting a zero on vault likely could have pushed her to the top of the all-around qualification rankings even with the beam fall, making this especially sad. Jayla Hang had a fall on bars and a frustrating day on beam, missing her flight series twice before also crashing the double tuck, but she still managed to reach the all-around final in the third-to-last spot while also qualifying on vault and floor. The only gymnast without disastrous mistakes, Izzy Stassi was the top all-around qualifier for the U.S. team, finishing fourth with a 49.832. Her Yurchenko 1½ was tremendously good, earning a 13.8 to help her qualify first on the event, and she also hit floor, but had falls on both bars and beam.

It clearly wasn’t the kind of day the U.S. was hoping for, but counting three falls and winning a silver medal was a pretty impressive result for this young team.

The Italian ladies won the bronze medal just two tenths behind the U.S., doing exceedingly well all day until they got to beam and ended up coming apart. Giulia Perotti, the current top junior standout for the program, did exactly what was expected of her to qualify second all-around with a 51.598, while Caterina Gaddi was a great surprise, qualifying fifth all-around with a 49.798 including a fall on beam. Gaddi, who doesn’t compete on a Serie A1 or A2 team, was the least experienced of this group – and perhaps the least experienced among the gymnasts from top programs in Türkiye! – but she did stunning work on bars and showed potential on vault and floor, reading the all-around final ahead of veteran July Marano, who ended up in 12th place thanks to beam (though she did qualify third on vault).

Rounding out the top eight teams were Canada in fourth with a 100.331, Argentina in fifth with a 99.363, China in sixth with a 98.231, Germany in seventh with a 98.029, and Romania in eighth with a 97.964. Among these teams, both Canada performed a bit better than I expected based on the previous results from this group of athletes, setting the bar high thanks to a fantastic performance on vault and the third-best beam rotation in the competition, while Romania was also a happy surprise – I didn’t expect to see this team in the top eight after its top juniors all graduated to the senior level after last season, but this group had the best performances on beam, holding them afloat on a day where beam broke many hearts.

Some of those hearts belonged to Argentina, a team I had in my top five and as a maybe for the podium, but which struggled to capitalize on its integral apparatuses, beam and floor. Isabella Ajalla, one of my favorite all-arounders in the field, fell on both, while Mia Mainardi, also a strong all-arounder, had a miss on beam, forcing the team to count Ajalla’s score (though it was great to see Emilia Acosta keep her composure and hit there; it’s exactly why she was named to this team). Both Mainardi and Ajalla qualified to the all-around final – Ajalla by the skin of her teeth, finishing 26th but getting in thanks to the two-per-country rules – but Mainardi was the only gymnast to reach the apparatus finals, qualifying third on vault and in the last spot on bars (kind of a funny one, as she’s not known to be a bars gymnast).

Otherwise, China struggled with mistakes but unlike some of the other programs, couldn’t bounce back due to lower difficulty across the board, though they did have a couple of individual standout moments, including Yu Hanyue on beam with a 13.1, while Jiang Shuxuan ended up reaching the all-around final with a 48.532, counting a couple of mistakes but showing some great potential.

Germany finished a bit below where I expected after star all-arounder Helen Kevric injured her foot and had rough performances on bars and beam before effectively scratching vault, performing a Yurchenko timer without a salto just to get all-around credit as only all-arounders were eligible to reach apparatus finals (which was smart, as she ended up second on bars). Marlene Gotthardt, meanwhile, had a career-making performance, especially on beam, while Silja Stöhr helped the team by counting scores on vault and beam, the two apparatuses Kevric couldn’t ultimately contribute to.

Great Britain (ninth place), Belgium (10th place), and France (11th place) all finished a bit lower-ranked than I thought they would, while Spain (12th) was a bit better than I expected, thanks in large part to a fantastic performance from Leire Escauriaza, who qualified seventh into the all-around final with a 49.433 and seventh on bars with a 12.6. Brazil and Ukraine were the other two I thought might sneak into the top 10, but both finished just outside, in 13th and 14th, respectively, while Czechia was just behind in 15th, largely thanks to brilliant work on vault, bars, and beam from Vanesa Masova, who qualified ninth all-around.

The men’s competition saw Japan get a pretty easy win as the team finished 3.6 points ahead of the rest of the field, getting a 164.831 for gold ahead of China with a 161.229 for silver and Italy with a 159.598 for bronze.

Only three teams put up scores above a 28 on any event, with Japan getting a 28.666 on vault followed by a 28.233 on parallel bars. They also went 27+ on floor and high bar and 26+ on pommel horse and rings, a pretty massive result given that the majority of teams in this field struggled to get above a 26 on any apparatus.

Top all-arounder Tanida Masaharu unfortunately had a pommel horse situation, but his comeback from that was incredible and he put on a stunning performance overall to finish 10th with a 79.299, about four points lower than what he’s capable of. Thankfully, while he missed the all-around final due to the two-per-country rules, he made a number of finals after finishing first on floor, parallel bars, and high bar as well as third on rings. He teammates were able to help pick up the slack on pommels, and they also did great work in the all-around, where Tsunogai Tomoharu qualified second with an 81.366 while Kamiyama Haruto was fifth with a 79.830.

The Chinese team did its best work on parallel bars, and overall had a pretty strong day, with floor and high bar just a little too weak to contend with the Japanese men, who were fantastic on these two given their ages. All three of China’s all-arounders finished in the top eight, with Yang Chunjie and Qin Guohuan qualifying into the all-around final with scores of 79.965 and 79.698, while last year’s youth champion He Xiang was just a little behind with a 79.431, though he still had an excellent day, and qualified to the pommels and high bar finals.

Italy had one of my favorite teams here, especially on floor and vault, where they were really able to capitalize on lots of power, especially from Tommaso Brugnami – who qualified fourth all-around with a 79.899 in addition to coming in fifth on floor with a 13.633 and second on vault with a 13.916 average. Riccardo Villa was a bit weaker than he’s capable of on pommels, but he was otherwise strong to finish ninth all-around with a 79.399, while Manuel Berettera contributed to the team on floor and high bar, though he missed out on finals.

If you read your preview, you would have been hyped for Armenia coming into this competition, but while I had them on my list as a potential contender for a medal, I was a little nervous about whether they could pull it off. Though a medal didn’t happen, the team proved to be one of the best in the world here, finishing in fourth place less than half a point behind Italy, an incredible performance especially considering the program only sent one individual competitor to juniors worlds back in 2019. All three competitors contributed pretty evenly and finished among the top 20, with Erik Baghdasaryan and Hamlet Manukyan qualifying into the all-around final. Armenia was one of the three teams to post a 28 or higher on any apparatus, and of all events, it happened on pommels, where Manukyan had a 14.133 and Mamikon Khachatryan had a 14.0, qualifying first and third into the final.

Rounding out the top eight were France in fifth with a 157.696, the United States in sixth with a 157.530, Great Britain in seventh with a 157.331, and Germany in eighth with a 155.996. Among these teams, I don’t think there were any surprises, though I did think the British men would end up a little higher. A few things went awry for the young George Atkins, keeping him out of the all-around final, but both Winston Powell and Alexander Yolshina Cash made it in, with Powell all the way up in seventh place. Egypt and Türkiye did great work to finish within the top 10 – special shoutout to Egypt, which saw Mohamed Attia make the all-around final, Mostafa Ahmed make pommels, and Yahia Zakaria make p-bars! – and it was also exciting to see Iran do really well, with the program finishing 15th.

On the individual front, it was thrilling to see Angel Barajas of Colombia do even more than I thought he was capable of as he hit a fantastic level of difficulty to lead the pack with an 81.464. Having seen him at Pan Ams and at the South American Junior Games, it was clear he would be a standout here, but of course there’s always the worry that things won’t work out, so I’m overjoyed that it did. In addition to his all-around performance, he also qualified to the floor, parallel bars, and high bar finals, and I think he has a realistic shot for a medal in all three.

The biggest bummer was seeing 2022 EYOF pommels champion Kristijonas Padegimas of Lithuania put up a 14.1 on his standout apparatus, but not make the final due to the ridiculous rule here that required athletes to compete in the all-around to make apparatus finals. As he’s not an all-arounder, he wasn’t able to put up even basic routines, so it’s a shame that this gold medal contender won’t get the chance to show his routine in finals.

While most other apparatus spots went to athletes from higher-ranking teams here, there were a few others who also got in, including Zeinolla Idrissov of Kazakhstan on pommels, Marcus Pietarinen of Finland and Aitor Gomez of Spain on rings, Daniel Trifonov of Bulgaria, Szilard Zavory of Hungary, Victor Canuel of Canada, and Jakob Kvamsøe of Norway on vault, and Zala Samu Zambori of Hungary on high bar.

A full list of all team finalists and individual qualifiers is below. The all-around finals for the men and women will both take place on Friday, March 31, while apparatus finals will happen over the weekend.

Women’s Team Final Results

1. Japan 104.230
2. United States 102.198
3. Italy 101.996
4. Canada 100.331
5. Argentina 99.363
6. China 98.231
7. Germany 98.029
8. Romania 97.964
9. Great Britain 97.263
10. Belgium 97.231
11. France 96.898
12. Spain 96.464
13. Brazil 95.530
14. Ukraine 94.964
15. Czechia 94.031
16. Egypt 93.365
17. Taiwan 93.098
18. South Korea 92.364
19. Panama 92.164
20. Finland 90.864
21. Guatemala 90.532
22. Poland 90.497
23. Norway 89.596
24. Hungary 89.364
25. Mexico 89.230
26. Türkiye 89.098
27. Uzbekistan 88.565
28. Slovenia 87.930
29. Denmark 86.763
30. Greece 86.497
31. Portugal 86.264
32. Bulgaria 85.830
33. Kazakhstan 84.965
34. Ecuador 83.898
35. Azerbaijan 79.031
36. Cyprus 76.497

Women’s All-Around Qualification Results

1. Yamaguchi Sara, Japan, 52.065
2. Giulia Perotti, Italy, 51.598
3. Nakamura Haruka, Japan, 50.399
4. Izzy Stassi, United States, 49.832
5. Caterina Gaddi, Italy, 49.798
6. Marlene Gotthardt, Germany, 49.498
7. Leire Escauriaza, Spain, 49.433
8. Zoe Tsaprailis, Canada, 49.232
9. Vanesa Masova, Czechia, 49.231
10. Alexia Vanoaga, Romania, 49.166
11. Abigail Martin, Great Britain, 49.131
x. July Marano, Italy, 49.032
12. Mia Mainardi, Argentina, 48.898
13. Yelena Devreker, Belgium, 48.732
14. Luiza Abel, Brazil, 48.698
15. Jiang Shuxuan, China, 48.532
16. Lana Pondart, France, 48.433
17. Victoriane Charron, Canada, 48.199
18. Jemima Taylor, Great Britain, 48.132
19. Crina Tudor, Romania, 48.032
20. Lilou Viallat, France, 47.832
x. Cristella Brunetti-Burns, Canada, 47.766
21. Anastasiia Zubkova, Ukraine, 47.632
22. Jayla Hang, United States, 47.565
x. Anamaria Mihaescu, Romania, 47.498
23. Isabella Ajalla, Argentina, 47.465
24. Hanne Degryse, Belgium, 47.365

x. Emilia Acosta, Argentina, 47.365 
R1. Yang Ko-Wen, Taiwan, 47.299
R2. Isabelle David, Jamaica, 47.266
R3. Hwang Seohyun, South Korea, 46.899
R4. Gabriela Boucas, Brazil, 46.832

Women’s Vault Qualification Results

1. Izzy Stassi, United States, 13.566
2. Jayla Hang, United States, 13.533
3. Mia Mainardi, Argentina, 13.449
– July Marano, Italy, 13.449
5. Mizuno Mika, Japan, 13.433
6. Ming van Eijken, France, 13.083
7. Victoriane Charron, Canada, 13.033
8. Zoe Tsaprailis, Canada, 13.016

R1. Abigail Martin, Great Britain, 12.983
R2. Isabelle David, Jamaica, 12.949
x. Cristella Brunetti-Burns, Canada, 12.900 
R3. Luiza Abel, Brazil, 12.716

Women’s Uneven Bars Qualification Results

1. Caterina Gaddi, Italy, 13.366
2. Helen Kevric, Germany, 13.066
3. Giulia Perotti, Italy, 13.033
– Hezly Rivera, United States, 13.033
5. Yamaguchi Sara, Japan, 12.866
6. Nakamura Haruka, Japan, 12.800
7. Leire Escauriaza, Spain, 12.600
x. July Marano, Italy, 12.600
8. Mia Mainardi, Argentina, 12.433

R1. Victoriane Charron, Canada, 12.333
R2. Isabella Ajalla, Argentina, 12.266
R3. Jayla Hang, United States, 12.266

Women’s Balance Beam Qualification Results

1. Yamaguchi Sara, Japan, 13.333
2. Yu Hanyue, China, 13.100
3. Marlene Gotthardt, Germany, 13.033
4. Alexia Vanoaga, Romania, 12.866
5. Giulia Perotti, Italy, 12.766
6. Cristella Brunetti-Burns, Canada, 12.700
7. Yang Ko-Wen, Taiwan, 12.600
8. Vanesa Masova, Czechia, 12.533

R1. Anamaria Mihaescu, Romania, 12.366
R2. Zoe Tsaprailis, Canada, 12.333
R3. Lana Pondart, France, 12.300

Women’s Floor Exercise Qualification Results

1. Mizuno Mika, Japan, 13.166
2. Hezly Rivera, United States, 13.133
3. Nakamura Haruka, Japan, 12.833
4. Jayla Hang, United States, 12.766
5. Jemima Taylor, Great Britain, 12.733
6. Giulia Perotti, Italy, 12.733
7. Hwang Seohyun, South Korea, 12.700
x. Izzy Stassi, United States, 12.666
8. Victoriane Charron, Canada, 12.566

R1. Abigail Martin, Great Britain, 12.566
R2. Hanne Degryse, Belgium, 12.533
R3. Lilou Viallat, France, 12.500

Men’s Team Final Results

1. Japan 164.831
2. China 161.229
3. Italy 159.598
4. Armenia 159.161
5. France 157.696
6. United States 157.530
7. Great Britain 157.331
8. Germany 155.996
9. Egypt 155.095
10. Türkiye 154.330
11. Finland 152.529
12. Spain 151.728
13. Canada 151.665
14. Hungary 151.462
15. Iran 151.363
16. South Korea 151.195
17. Australia 151.161
18. Argentina 149.931
19. Mexico 149.629
20. Brazil 149.497
21. Kazakhstan 148.997
22. Norway 148.262
23. Bulgaria 148.196
24. Ukraine 146.163
25. Romania 145.897
26. Sweden 145.764
27. Uzbekistan 145.496
28. Lithuania 140.030
29. Belgium 139.565
30. Taiwan 138.364
31. Azerbaijan 136.997
32. South Africa 135.596
33. New Zealand 133.429
34. Greece 132.963
35. Latvia 132.428
36. Bangladesh 104.165

Men’s All-Around Qualification Results

1. Angel Barajas, Colombia, 81.464
2. Tsunogai Tomoharu, Japan, 81.366
3. Yang Chunjie, China, 79.965
4. Tommaso Brugnami, Italy, 79.899
5. Kamiyama Haruto, Japan, 79.830
6. Qin Guohuan, China, 79.698
7. Winston Powell, Great Britain, 79.432
x. He Xiang, China, 79.431
8. Riccardo Villa, Italy, 79.399
x. Tanida Masaharu, Japan, 79.299
9. Anthony Mansard, France, 78.966
10. Erik Baghdasaryan, Armenia, 78.563
11. Kai Uemura, United States, 78.432
12. Hamlet Manukyan, Armenia, 78.430
13. Romain Cavallaro, France, 77.896
14. David Shamah, United States, 77.831
x. Mamikon Khachatryan, Armenia, 77.499
x. Manuel Berettera, Italy, 77.165
15. Mohamed Attia, Egypt, 77.098
16. Timo Eder, Germany, 77.032
17. Maxim Kovalenko, Germany, 77.032
18. Alfred Schwaiger, Austria, 76.698
19. Volkan Arda Hamarat, Türkiye, 76.665
20. Alexander Yolshina-Cash, Great Britain, 76.465
21. João Victor Perdigão, Brazil, 76.398
22. Zala Samu Zambori, Hungary, 76.365
23. Marcus Pietarinen, Finland, 76.298
24. Mostafa Ahmed, Egypt, 76.164

x. Kiran Mandava, United States, 75.765
R1. Xavier Olasz, Canada, 75.666
R2. Juan Porras, Mexico, 75.631
R3. Alperen Ege Avci, Türkiye, 75.598
R4. Jakob Kvamsøe, Norway, 75.464

Men’s Floor Exercise Qualification Results

1. Tanida Masaharu, Japan, 13.800
2. Tsunogai Tomoharu, Japan, 13.733
x. Kamiyama Haruto, Japan, 13.733
3. Maxim Kovalenko, Germany, 13.666
4. Angel Barajas, Colombia, 13.633
5. Tommaso Brugnami, Italy, 13.633
6. Anthony Mansard, France, 13.400
7. Timo Eder, Germany, 13.333
8. Yang Chunjie, China, 13.300

R1. Victor Canuel, Canada, 13.300
R2. David Shamah, United States, 13.200
R3. He Xiang, China, 13.166

Men’s Pommel Horse Qualification Results

1. Hamlet Manukyan, Armenia, 14.133
x. Kristijonas Padegimas, Lithuania, 14.100
2. Mamikon Khachatryan, Armenia, 14.000
3. Yang Chunjie, China, 13.866
4. Zeinolla Idrissov, Kazakhstan, 13.833
5. He Xiang, China, 13.466
6. Alexander Yolshina-Cash, Great Britain, 13.433
7. Manoah Felicite, France, 13.400
8. Mostafa Ahmed, Egypt, 13.333

R1. Kamiyama Haruto, Japan, 13.333
R2. Ali Asadihafez, Iran, 13.133
R3. Alfred Schwaiger, Austria, 13.133

Men’s Rings Qualification Results

1. Hamlet Manukyan, Armenia, 13.666
2. Riccardo Villa, Italy, 13.600
3. Tanida Masaharu, Japan, 13.400
4. Erik Baghdasaryan, Armenia, 13.366
5. Tsunogai Tomoharu, Japan, 13.333
6. Yang Chunjie, China, 13.233
7. Kai Uemura, United States, 13.200
8. Marcus Pietarinen, Finland, 13.166

R1. Aitor Gomez, Spain, 13.166
x. Kamiyama Haruto, Japan, 13.166 
R2. Kiran Mandava, United States, 13.133
R3. Qin Guohuan, China, 13.133

Men’s Vault Qualification Results

1. Daniel Trifonov, Bulgaria, 13.966
2. Tommaso Brugnami, Italy, 13.916
3. Kamiyama Haruto, Japan, 13.683
4. Szilard Zavory, Hungary, 13.633
5. Alperen Ege Avci, Türkiye, 13.616
6. Victor Canuel, Canada, 13.616
7. Maxim Kovalenko, Germany, 13.566
8. Jakob Kvamsøe, Norway, 13.533

R1. Iustin Mihai, Romania, 13.516
R2. Winston Powell, Great Britain, 13.466
R3. João Victor Perdigão, Brazil, 13.366

Men’s Parallel Bars Qualification Results

1. Tanida Masaharu, Japan, 14.333
2. Qin Guohuan, China, 14.000
3. Angel Barajas, Colombia, 13.966
4. Tsunogai Tomoharu, Japan, 13.900
5. Yang Chunjie, China, 13.800
x. Kamiyama Haruto, Japan, 13.766 
6. Yahia Zakaria, Egypt, 13.566
7. Erik Baghdasaryan, Armenia, 13.533
8. Winston Powell, Great Britain, 13.500

x. He Xiang, China, 13.400
R1. David Shamah, United States, 13.366
R2. Timo Eder, Germany, 13.300
R3. Tommaso Brugnami, Italy, 13.200

Men’s High Bar Qualification Results

1. Tanida Masaharu, Japan, 13.633
2. Tsunogai Tomoharu, Japan, 13.600
3. Angel Barajas, Colombia, 13.466
4. Riccardo Villa, Italy, 13.233
5. Anthony Mansard, France, 13.200
6. He Xiang, China, 13.200
7. Winston Powell, Great Britain, 13.133
8. Zala Samu Zambori, Hungary, 13.066

R1. Kai Uemura, United States, 13.000
R2. Timo Eder, Germany, 12.966
R3. Qin Guohuan, China, 12.966

Gymnasts in italics are not eligible for the final.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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