The 2024 Paris Olympics is exactly six months away and we are building up to the Games by looking at some of Japan’s best medal prospects in France. We begin with gymnast Daiki Hashimoto, one of the country’s star performers at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which took place a year later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Seen as the heir apparent to Kohei Uchimura, this summer he can match the great man’s achievement of winning gold at consecutive Games in the all-around event.

Humble Beginnings  

Brought up in a farming family in Chiba Prefecture, south of Tokyo, Daiki Hashimoto followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers who both trained as gymnasts. He regularly joined them at Sawara Junior Club — located inside a disused school with equipment that had been passed down from other facilities — and desperately tried to get involved. After lots of pleading, the instructor there eventually relented and agreed to train Hashimoto when he was 6 years old.  

It was the start of a very bright career in the sport. Though not always the best in his class, Hashimoto showed great potential that he started to fulfill in August 2019, winning the all-around event at the All-Japan Junior Gymnastics Championships. Two months later, the then 18-year-old represented his country at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, becoming only the second active male high school student from Japan to compete at the competition after Kenzo Shirai. As well as finishing a respectable fourth on the horizontal bar and ninth on the pommel horse, he also helped Japan win a bronze medal in the team event. 


Kohei Uchimura | Hiromi Ave

A Golden Summer  

With much of the 2020 season postponed due to the pandemic, Hashimoto came back even stronger in 2021, transforming from a teenager with great potential into one of the most feared performers on the planet. After a hugely impressive performance to take the top prize in the all-around event at the All-Japan Artistic Gymnastics Championships, he was considered one of the leading contenders to top the podium at the postponed Tokyo Olympics. He didn’t disappoint.  

Japanese fans, who witnessed Uchimura’s back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2016, had a new hero to celebrate. Hashimoto, aged just 19, totaled 88.645 in the six events, 0.4 points ahead of China’s Xiao Ruoteng, with pre-tournament favorite Nikita Nagornyy representing the ROC, a further 0.434 points back. Going into the last routine on the bar, Hashimoto was in third behind Ruoteng and Nagornyy. He needed to produce something special and duly obliged with a score of 14.933 points to seal the victory, becoming the youngest ever winner of the event. 

“Uchimura’s heir is born,” read the headline on the Sanspo sports daily. At the same age, though, Uchimura only managed a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games. Hashimoto went, not one, but two better, as he followed up the all-round triumph with his second gold of the Games on the horizontal bar, becoming the first Japanese gymnast to top the podium twice in individual events at the Olympics since Koji Gushiken in 1984. Prior to his two golds, he also claimed a silver in the team event, as Japan finished second behind the ROC. 

The Road to Paris 2024

Hashimoto’s success in Tokyo was certainly no flash in the pan. He has since gone on to prove what a phenomenal gymnast he is. In the last three World Championships between 2021 and 2023, he won an astonishing nine medals, topping the podium four times. In Antwerp last year, he won both the all-around event and the horizontal bar with relative ease. What pleased him even more, though, was leading Japan to gold in the team event. They finished almost two points ahead of China to claim their first victory in the competition in eight years.  

Hashimoto will now be hoping for a similar result in France. “In my quest to secure consecutive individual all-around and uneven bars titles, along with the team gold medal at the upcoming Paris Olympics, I will remain steadfast in surpassing my previous accomplishments,” he told sports agency Sarcle. “My commitment to the competition is unwavering, fueled by a resolute determination. Beyond my personal aspirations, I aspire to cultivate a love for gymnastics among children in Japan and around the world.”  

Barring injury or a dramatic loss of form over the next six months, Hashimoto is likely to start the Paris Olympics as the favorite to take gold in both the all-around event and on the horizontal bar. In the former, his biggest threat could come from China’s Zhang Boheng, the 2021 World Champion. Other names to look out for include Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun, America’s Fred Richard and Hashimoto’s compatriots such as Kenta Chiba and Wataru Tanigawa. The talented Nagornyy may be forced to sit out due to his support of Russia’s war in Ukraine. 


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