By Anna Rose Johnson
Asuka Teramoto—a longtime star and veteran of the Japanese women’s gymnastics team—has returned to her sport with a firm new goal in mind, propelled by a once-in-a-lifetime chance three years from now. She’s determined to guide her team to glory as the focus of the sports world shifts away from the beaches of Brazil and instead to a metropolis in Japan.
Asuka turned senior in 2009, competing in her first senior international meet in Hong Kong. She originally began training in rhythmic gymnastics, but she quickly made the switch to artistic, a decision that proved to be a wise one in the years that followed.
A veteran of two Olympic Games, Asuka’s first major senior competition was the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, where she qualified to the team final and finished fifth in the uneven bars final. Her career continued to blossom after she finished 11th in the London 2012 all-around, and her individual accolades began to stack up. She won the all-around gold at the 2013 Tokyo World Cup, and she just narrowly missed a beam medal at 2014 Worlds, finishing just 0.066 behind bronze medal-winner Aliya Mustafina. Glasgow 2015 was another fabulous meet for Asuka, who ranked ninth in the all-around final and finished fifth with her team.
But Rio 2016 was definitely her best major competition to date, as she placed eighth in the all-around and fourth in the team final (the best finish for the Japanese women’s team since 1964). “After the Rio Olympics, I was kind of burned out, physically and mentally,” Asuka recently told us. “But [my passion] came back and now I’m training for the World Championships in Montreal.”
I was actually thinking of retiring after Rio, but as I saw Kohei become the first pro gymnast in Japan…I started thinking.
Asuka had a marvelous meet at the 2017 American Cup in Newark; she captured the all-around silver with her dynamic and dramatic floor routine and her remarkable front handspring half vault. One of few world-class all-arounders with great consistency across each apparatus, Asuka considers bars and beam to be her favorite events. She’s also currently working on a new acro series in hopes of winning a beam medal at 2017 Worlds. “I was actually thinking of retiring after Rio,” Asuka admits, “but as I saw Kohei [Uchimura] become the first pro gymnast in Japan, and he is still making progress…I started thinking [that I should do the same]. I started thinking [about bringing] the women’s team up on the stage just like men’s team. So I decided to keep competing until Tokyo 2020.”
Asuka’s commitment and perseverance paid off, and in June she was named to the 2017 Japanese women’s Worlds team, along with Mai Murakami, Sae Miyakawa, and Aiko Sugihara. “It’s not a team competition this time, but I want to compete strongly [in order to raise] up the Japanese team as a captain,” says Asuka. She adds that the Rio team final is one of her fondest competition memories. “We finished the team finals with no mistakes,” she remembers, “and all my team members told me ‘Thanks, captain’ in the end. [Those] words made my day. It was a very emotional moment for me.”
The 22-year-old is dedicated to leading the Japanese women to a team medal at their hometown Olympics in 2020. “We [were so close to] the team medal [in] Rio, so we’ll put lots of effort [into winning] the medal at Worlds [in the] next two years,” she explains. “We [will] put our all effort [into winning] the team medal at our special Tokyo 2020 Olympics all together.”
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com