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Japan Returns Two for 2008
(6 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)
Hiroyuki Tomita and Kyoko Oshima each clinched a second Olympic berth by winning the NHK Cup, which concluded Wednesday in Okayama City.

Tomita scored 91.950 in the second day of competition at the NHK Cup and is the top qualifier to Japan's team to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The total score from the NHK Cup is added to half the score of the secondary trials in April to determine the Olympic team.

Hiroyuki Tomita

Based on the combined results, the top three all-around performers and the top three event specialists qualified to the Olympic team. Tomita and Takehiro Kashima, both 27, will be the only returning members of Japan's gold medal-winning team from the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

"I think overall I did well," said Tomita, the 2005 world all-around champion. "It was good that I could concentrate throughout and gave a lot of care to my performances during the competition. Since I don't have any more competitions until the Olympics, today I wanted to try elements which I want to use at Olympics and it was challenging. On floor and vault, I can't say the results were excellent, but I didn't fall... I was tired today and this — the physical strength to compete through the meets to the final day — could be the subject to be improved."

Asked about the difference since making his first Olympic team four years ago, Tomita said, "Basically it's same, but I pay more much attention to execution. I've been looking for the beauty of gymnastics. I'll keep doing that more."

Kohei Uchimura, who beat Tomita at the secondary trial in April, again had problems on pommel horse. He scored 16.050 on vault, however, with an excellent Yurchenko 2.5 twist and earned 15.900 at floor. Uchimura won the all-around bronze and earned the second spot for the Olympic team.

"I'm very glad that my dream since my childhood came true," he said. "Japan has so many good gymnasts and it's difficult to be on the team for the Olympics. I think, even after making the team, I will have to get through hard and busy times. However I want to get through it. The gold medal at the team event is the goal and I want to fill my role in the team."

Kashima fell from the high bar on his Kolman (too far from the bar) and again fell on his Kovacs (too close). His score of 12.200 dropped him from second to ninth in this last rotation. However, he earned 19 points for individual event placements (16 points on pommel horse and 3 on parallel bars) to take the first specialist berth.

"Since the April trial, I've had anxieties on high bar," said Kashima, who turns 28 in July. "At that trial, on both days I was in danger of falling on the Kolman. Especially at the second day, when I caught the bar with only one hand. Since then, I've felt a surge of anxiety for the Kolman. A few days before the NHK Cup, I started feeling better but it seems that I couldn't get full confidence, and it turned up today. Even in training, it's very rare to fall off on the Kolman if I did it as a part of entire routine. Therefore, I was overanxious and thinking too much about catching the bar on the Kovacs and this affected me."

With Kashima's surprise downfall in the last rotation, Koki Sakamoto grabbed the third and final all-around spot for the team. A 21-year-old student from Juntendo University, Sakamoto was one of only two gymnasts to score higher than 15.000 on pommel horse (along with Kashima).

"I thought it was very difficult for me to make the team, even if I did perfect routines. I was lucky," Sakamoto said. "I want to show beautiful Japanese gymnastics at Olympics."

Asked about Sakamoto's pommel horse, Kashima, who graduated from Juntendo and usually trains with him, said with a laugh, "I don't teach him — in fact I ask him advice! He is good at rings, too. I think he is a very beautiful gymnast."

Okiguchi, who was 18th at the April trial and the final qualifier for the NHK Cup, earned 9 points on floor and vault to make the team.

"It's like a dream I made the team," he said. "I made a mistake on vault today, and it sometimes happens. I was selected because of the points at floor and vault, therefore I want to fix my routines at those events to make no mistakes next time."

NHK Cup champions Kyoko Oshima and Hiroyuki Tomita

The final qualifier was Takuya Nakase, who earned 15 points (1 from floor exercise, 10 from rings, 4 from vault). Tanaka also earned 15 points, but he got only 2 points at pommel horse and 0 at rings. (Points from pommel horse and rings are outweigh points from other events, in case of a tie.)

"I want to brush up my routines at the events I got the points on and make a contribution to the team at the Olympics," Nakase said.

2004 Olympian Isao Yoneda was only 1 point behind them, and said he will retire to start coaching.

"I made up my mind to retire if I didn't make the Olympics," he said. "I've tried to never give up to the end and this was what I wanted to show. I did all I can do and I have no regrets."

On the other hand, three-time Olympian Naoya Tsukahara, who turns 31 on June 25, indicated he would continue to compete.

2004 Olympian Hisashi Mizutori finished 17th, well below Olympic contention. Mizutori, who won the all-around silver at the 2005 worlds and bronze medals in the all-around, floor exercise and high bar at the 2007 worlds, has been struggling with a shoulder injury. After finishing his final routine he took a bow in all directions before the tears came, but did not indicate whether he planned to retire or continue.

Tomita said the team is a good mix of veterans and newcomers.

"This is the well-balanced team," Tomita said. "On floor and vault, we can aim for the top. We have to brush up pommel horse, high bar and rings."

Though the host Chinese are the reigning world champions and favorites to win, Kashima said Japan is still aiming to defend its team title

"Well, it's true that China is the biggest rival but considering the 6-3-3 rule, I'd prefer to say it's a fight our own mentalities. If someone one makes a mistake, this can mean no medal. Mentally we have to fight with ourselves and I think this is the most important thing."

In the women's competition, 2004 Olympian Kyoko Oshima won the NHK Cup for the first time since 2002. She was the only gymnast to score above 15.000 on floor exercise, and the top qualifier via the Olympic selection procedure.

"I'm proud of myself to attend the Olympics again and I'm very happy," said Oshima, who will turn 22 three days before the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing. "In Athens I participated as an individual competitor but this time I can go with the team. We'll unite and our goal is to proceed to the team final."

Miki Uemura finished 0.15 behind of Oshima to place second.

"I still can't believe that I'll go and participate in the Olympics," said Uemura, 22. "I don't want to be nervous and I want to perform calmly."

The fourth other gymnasts going to Beijing are Yu Minobe, Koko Tsurumi, Yuko Shintake and Mayu Kuroda.

"I've been always around seventh or eighth, and needed one more step to get onto the team," said Minobe, whose younger sister Sayuri finished 11th. "Finally I got it and I'm so glad. I'll train a lot and want to do my best in Beijing."

Kyoko Oshima

Tsurumi, the 2007 NHK Cup champion, sat down her uneven bars dismount. On balance beam, she balked after front flip, layout and wasn't able to continue to a planned second layout. She tried a few seconds later another back handspring layout, layout and fell, and was crying after routine.

"During this NHK Cup, I had so many failures," said Tsurumi, the youngest member of the team at 15. "I have to think deeply about what caused them and train a lot to do my best at the Olympics to make the team final."

Kuroda, who qualified based on her individual apparatus scores, earning 12 points on uneven bars and 4 on balance beam.

"I was selected because I met the criterion for the event specialist and I want to fill this role for the," said Kuroda, who was fourth on uneven bars at the 2005 and 2006 World Championships.

Click here to download detailed results.

2008 NHK Cup/Japanese Olympic Trials
May 7, 2008, Okayama City

Men's Olympic Selection Results
(50% Secondary Trials + 100% NHK Cup)

1. Hiroyuki Tomita 274.400
2. Kohei Uchimura 271.700
3. Koki Sakamoto 269.050
4. Takuya Nakase 268.475
5. Kensuke Murata 268.400
6. Kazuhito Tanaka 267.875
7. Naoya Tsukahara 267.475
8. Isao Yoneda 267.450
9. Takehiro Kashima 267.225
10. Makato Okiguchi 266.900
11. Eiichi Sekiguchi 266.400
12. Yosuke Hoshi 265.675
13. Kyoichi Watanabe 265.250
14. Shun Kuwahara 264.650
15. Takehito Mori 264.100
16. Shun Nishimura 262.250
17. Hisashi Mizutori 261.925
18. Mitsuyasu Ota 256.800

Top Event Specialists
1. Takehiro Kashima
2. Makoto Okiguchi
3. Takuya Nakase
4. Kazuhito Tanaka
5. Isao Yoneda
6. Naoya Tsukahara
7. Eiichi Sekiguchi
8. Kensuke Murata
9. Yosuke Hoshi

2008 Japanese Men's Olympic team: Hiroyuki Tomita, Kohei Uchimura, Koki Sakamoto, Takehiro Kashima, Makoto Okiguchi, Takuya Nakase

Women's Olympic Selection Results
(50% Secondary Trials + 100% NHK Cup)

1. Kyoko Oshima 176.325
2. Miki Uemura 175.700
3. Yu Minobe 174.475
4. Koko Tsurumi 173.950
5. Yuko Shintake 173.800
6. Mayu Kuroda 171.600
7. Momoko Ozawa 169.950
8. Rie Tanaka 167.025
9. Erica Lynn Danko* 167.000
10. Setsubai Takaseki (He Xuemei) 166.700
11. Sayuri Minobe 166.175
12. Manami Ishizaka 165.500
13. Akiho Sato* 163.575
14. Haruhi Uchimura 163.350
15. Yuma Imanishi 162.750
16. Serina Takeuchi 160.150
17. Sakiko Okabe 160.075
18. Kana Yamawaki 158.425
19. Tomomi Ejima 157.475
20. Chinami Otaki 157.225
21. Nanaho Hidaka* 157.050
22. Shizuka Tozawa 155.325

* Junior, not eligible for 2008 Olympics

Top Event Specialists (Among gymnasts No. 6-12 in the all-around ranking)
1. Mayu Kuroda
2. Momoko Ozawa
3. Erica Lynn Danko
4. Setsubai Takaseki (He Xuemei)
5. Rie Tanaka
6. Sayuri Minobe
7. Manami Ishizaka

2008 Japanese Women's Olympic team: Kyoko Oshima, Miki Uemura, Yu Minobe, Koko Tsurumi, Yuko Shintake, Mayu Kuroda

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