Gymnastics-Team Japan in Paris will be strongest ever, says medallist Kaya


Gymnastics - 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships - Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium - October 8, 2023 Japan's Kazuma Kaya in action on the parallel bars during the men's apparatus finals REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

(Reuters) - Tokyo Olympics medallist Kazuma Kaya said Japan would field its strongest men's gymnastics squad yet at Paris 2024, where his only goal was to win the team title to improve on the silver medal he helped nab at the last Games.

Kaya on Sunday finished second in the NHK Trophy competition, which decided the nine Japanese men and women who will join men's defending all-around champion Daiki Hashimoto in Paris.

"I still made some small mistakes here and there, and to win gold at the Olympics would require much more practice," said Kaya, 27, who took the team gold at the world championships with Hashimoto last October.

"I've been working towards winning a gold medal at the Olympics since I started gymnastics. That hasn't changed an inch," he said.

"We're going to have the strongest Team Japan there ever was," he said - a bold statement given Japan's haul of seven Olympic gold medals in the team discipline, the most of any country.

The NHK Trophy men's all-around title went to Shinnosuke Oka, 20, who will be competing in his first Olympics.

Joining the three on the team will be Takaaki Sugino and Tokyo team silver medallist Wataru Tanigawa.

Hashimoto, a favourite to defend his Olympic title, was out for the NHK Trophy, held in Takasaki, having injured a finger while practising last week.

On the women's side a day earlier, 19-year-old Shoko Miyata secured her Paris berth with her third consecutive NHK Trophy.

"I had hoped for a performance that I could be more satisfied with, but I'll leave that for Paris," she said, admitting she had competed with some concerns about a pre-tournament injury.

"There were good years and bad years (on the road to Paris), but I'll make sure that this year definitely ends up being a good one."

Joining her will be Rina Kishi, Mana Okamura, Haruka Nakamura and Kohane Ushioku. All five teenagers will be competing in their first Olympics.

Artistic gymnastics is one of the most popular sports at the Summer Games, and will be held from July 27 to August 5.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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