The Heir Apparent 

By Gina Pongetti Angeletti and Christy Sandmaier

Hashimoto Daiki has taken over king status in gymnastics in Japan, having been crowned Olympic All-Around Champion today in Tokyo. He takes the reins from “King” Kohei Uchimura, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic All-Around champion. Uchimura competed as an individual on high bar only in qualifications for Japan, and did not qualify for finals. 

Hashimoto tallied 88.465 for gold ahead of 2017 World All-Around Champion Xiao Ruoteng of China (88.065) and reigning World All-Around Champion Nikita Nagornyy (ROC) who finished with an 88.031.

It was a hard-fought battle from start to finish across the floor for all three men. Heading into the final rotation, Wei sat in first place, 0.334 ahead of  Nagornyy, who was physically upset at his performance (or his score) on high bar after landing his dismount chest down. He took his tape off of his hands, paced around, then was seen throwing it on the ground. To be hundredths away… in the Olympic Games.

After the competition, Nagornyy told the press, “I feel like we were judged fairly and it was just my fault that I couldn’t do my best.” 

Hashimoto needed a 14.534 in order to win gold and delivered an exceedingly difficult and beautiful pipe routine to the joy and excitement of the albeit small audience of athletes and delegation members. With all cameras on him, and a hug from Nagornyy who climbed back onto the podium to greet Hashimoto and congratulate him, he waited.

Holding his flag in anticipation, the score came through. The gold was his and for home country Japan, it was a true celebration, welcoming a new champion to the history books.

Brody Malone and Sam Mikulak finished 10th and 12th respectively for Team USA. 

Mikulak appeared to genuinely enjoy himself throughout the competition and acknowledged this was the most “stress free” Olympics he’s competed in. He knows that Malone is ready to lead the next generation to greatness: “This year was definitely his time. Here’s the future right here.”

In the end, Hashimoto said that he was proud that the young Japanese team did the best that they could, and that’s why the cheers erupted in the team competition. Tonight, as he was ready with his flag, no matter the color of the medal, he stated that he knew he did the very best that he could. He is aware that Uchimura leaves large footsteps to fill. At 19, he seems to be transitioning early to this role, and more than ready to do so.

“I want to lead the next generation of gymnastics in Japan!” he said. He’s off to a roaring start.

Photos by Ricardo Bufolin for Inside Gymnastics

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