A disappointing setback for the men’s gymnastics team, a first win for Samurai Blue’s new manager, and NPB action heads to the final rounds of action.
By Matthew Hernon
Japan narrowly missed out on a gold medal in the men’s team event at the 2014 Gymnastics World Championships, losing out by just 0.01 points to reigning champions China. The Japanese team led throughout, but then a spectacular performance by Zhang Chenglong on the bars earned the home team a thrilling victory at the death. It was a bitterly disappointing finale for Kohei Uchimura and company, but on the bright side they are getting closer and by the time the Rio Olympics come around they will fancy their chances of finally ending China’s dominance.
Uchimura put the loss behind him to, unsurprisingly, stroll to victory in the men’s all-around competition. The 25-year-old, who hasn’t lost in the AA event since 2008, was the only finalist to score 15.000 points or more in all six apparatuses. A phenomenon who “is not human,” according to his coach Hiroyuki Kato, the Olympic champion beat runner-up Max Whitlock by an incredible 1.492 points to claim his fifth world title. So how can anyone possibly get near him? “As yet we do not have the answer to that question,” said Russia’s David Belyavskiy. “If we knew how to do it, we would.”
Japan won six medals in total: one gold, three silvers and two bronzes, with Uchimura adding to his haul with a silver on the horizontal bar. There was a bronze for Ryohei Kato on the parallel bars, while Yusuke Tanaka also finished third in the all-arounds. The other silver medalist was 18-year-old Kenzo Shirai. The Yokohama-born star was the youngest male winner at last year’s World Championships in Antwerp, but didn’t quite reach those heights this year, losing out to Russia’s Denis Ablyazin.
The Japanese national team earned their first win under new coach Javier Aguirre, beating Jamaica 1–0 thanks to an own goal by Nyron Nosworthy. Once again the Samurai Blue made life difficult for themselves, missing a host of chances in a game they were expected win comfortably. It was the kind of performance we have gotten used to seeing from them over the past few years: easy on the eye with some nice one touch football, but once again no cutting edge against a team who really were there for the taking.
The own goal aside, the most positive thing to come out of the match was the clean sheet, a rarity for Japan these days. It gives the Mexican manager something to build on; however, he knows the side face a much tougher test in Singapore against Brazil this Tuesday. The Seleção may have been battered 7–1 by Germany at the World Cup but they are still a force to be reckoned with, boasting some terrific players such as Neymar and Oscar. On top of that, they will be full of confidence following a morale-boosting 2–0 win over fierce rivals Argentina at the weekend. With Dunga back in the hot seat and stars like Kaka and Robinho restored to the squad, it’s a game that should definitely be worth watching.
Best of the Rest
The Central League Climax Series proved to be a very low-scoring affair with the Hanshin Tigers advancing to the final stage of the playoffs after beating the Hiroshima Carp 1–0 in the opening game and then drawing the second, 0–0. In the result of a tied match, the victory is given to the higher seeded team—in this case, the Hanshin Tigers. They will now play the Yomiuri Giants in a best-of-seven stage final. The Pacific League Climax Series between the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Orix Buffaloes is tied at one game apiece. The final game was scheduled for Monday, but was postponed until Tuesday because of the approach of Typhoon Vongfong.
While the baseball season comes to an end, basketball is just getting under way. Reigning champions the Toshiba Brave Thunders got off to the worst possible start on Friday, losing 87–84 to Yuta Tabuse’s side, Link Tochigi Brex.
21-year-old racing sensation Marc Marquez retained the Moto GP Championship after he finished second at the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi, Tochigi, this Sunday. Fellow countryman Jorge Lorenzo won the race, but it was Marquez who took the plaudits following another dominant season. It’s difficult to see anyone stopping him any time soon.
Australian Sam Stosur won the Japan Women’s Open for a third time on Sunday with a straight sets win over Kazakhstan youngster Zarina Diyas. The 2011 US Open winner didn’t drop a set all week in Osaka as she claimed her sixth career WTA title.
Main Image—Uchimura at the 2012 Olympics in London: Agencia de Noticias ANDES/Flickr