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Daiki Hashimoto to be in gymnastics worlds all-around final despite qualifying miss

Daiki Hashimoto

Japan’s Daiki Hashimoto performs during the men’s qualifying session as part of the 52nd FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, in Antwerp, northern Belgium, on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP) (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

ANTWERP, Belgium — Daiki Hashimoto, the reigning Olympic and world all-around champion, did not directly qualify to defend his title at these world championships, but the Japanese team coach said that Hashimoto will be put into Thursday’s all-around final instead of a teammate who scored higher in qualifying.

Japan had three of its five team members compete in the all-around (all six apparatuses) in Saturday’s qualifying, as top nations often do. However, a nation can qualify a maximum of two gymnasts into any individual final.

Hashimoto finished as the third-ranked Japanese gymnast in all-around qualifying, trailing Kenta Chiba and Kazuma Kaya.

Afterward, coach Hiroaki Sato said the team decided in a meeting before qualifying that Hashimoto would be put into the all-around final even if he was outscored by Chiba and Kaya. The rules allow it.

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“If Hashimoto didn’t win top three, then we can just change that,” he said. “Everybody [on the team] understands.”

A similar scenario played out at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hiroyuki Tomita, the 2005 World all-around champion, was the third Japanese man in qualifying. Koki Sakamoto, the No. 2 Japanese man, was replaced by Tomita for the final.

On Saturday, Hashimoto was the top Japanese man after five of six apparatuses, but he had a major error on his last event, pommel horse, to drop behind Chiba and Kaya. Hashimoto hit the horse with his foot early in his routine and stalled briefly.

Sato said that Hashimoto will replace Kaya, who was second to Chiba in qualifying. By the rules, Kaya does not need a medical reason to be replaced if it’s done more than 24 hours before the all-around final, an International Gymnastics Federation spokesperson said.

Scores from qualifying do not carry over to the final.

Hashimoto added that he’s still sometimes affected by injuries from earlier this season, particularly his wrist and back, and that stamina is an issue.

“My performance was not good,” Hashimoto said. “A little disappointed.”

A Japanese official said before qualifying that Hashimoto was fully recovered from a concussion suffered from a pommel horse fall at the World University Games two months ago.

Two years ago, Hashimoto became the first teenage man to win the Olympic all-around. Last year, he became the youngest man to pair a world all-around title with the Olympic gold.

This year, he can become the first man to repeat as world all-around champion since countryman Kohei Uchimura won six in a row from 2009 through 2015. Hashimoto was a clear favorite due to the absence of Chinese rival Zhang Boheng. Zhang, the 2021 World all-around champion, is competing at the Asian Games in China instead of worlds.

The U.S. men rank second in team qualifying between Japan and Great Britain with eight teams left to compete in qualifying on Sunday, but none of them medal favorites.

The U.S. qualified a full team for the 2024 Paris Games and are also all but assured a spot in Tuesday’s eight-team final. The American men seek their first Olympic or world team medal since 2014.

Americans Fred Richard and Asher Hong stand fifth and seventh, respectively, in all-around qualifying and should both make Thursday’s 24-man final.