THE friendly competitive nature provided the Japanese rhythmic gymnasts from three clubs with the firm stepping stone to gauge their strength at the fifth Angel Cup at the National Sports Council Gymnasium 1 in Bukit Jalil recently.
They were from the Shoin Club, Try Rhythmic Gymnastics Club and Sapporo Meg Rhythmic Gymnastics Club.
Newcomer Moe Inui, 13 from Try Club was eager to soak up the competition atmosphere going up against her peers in the Junior A (12 and 13 years) contest after the practice round on the eve of the competition.
Despite her first appearance at the biennial event, Try Club’s official Yuka Matsui said it was a good learning curve for their charges to gain exposure competing in an international junior meet.
“We noticed the difference because we do not have that style of structure in Japan. It is less taxing on the young gymnasts because we get to field them to compete in various categories based on their individual abilities. It will motivate them to aim for steady progress.
“The recent outing also served as an avenue for the gymnasts to move up to another level through the classification exercise,” added Yuka, who served as a judge in the two-day meet.
The duo of Misao Yoshino of Shoin Club and Megumi Ichimonji of Sapporo Meg were more experienced Japanese officials in the pack.
After finishing sixth overall in the Pre-Junior section in the previous outing two years ago, Shoin Club’s Ruri Shinomiya has returned to improve on her performances to finish as one of the top performers in her category.
“I have only been competing in domestic meets in Japan. It is a rare chance to compete against a strong field of competitors from other countries here. It will be great to do well in all the events,” the 12-year-old Ruri said.
The three disciplines for the Pre-Junior were freehand, hoop and ball while the Junior contenders vied for honours in four – hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon – events.
The Pre-Junior and Junior categories drew a total of 73 individual competitors and 160 competitors joined the fray in the group performances.
Besides the local entries from hosts Serdang Rhythmic Angels, other foreign entries from eight countries – the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Holland, Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand and Singapore – also joined the biennial meet.
The past Junior category all-round champions from the SRA stable were Jamie Lee Yoke Jeng (2004), Elaine Koon (2006) and Veronica Au Wei Ran (2010).
The promising talent Son Yeon-jae of South Korea broke the local domination when she emerged as the first foreigner to emerge as the individual overall champion in the Junior section.
Yeon-jae went on to pick up a bronze medal in the individual all-round contest at Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010 and competed in the recent Olympic Games in London.
The South Korean has also gained celebrity status with her noteworthy feats as an accomplished gymnast.