Keep 2011 Gymnastics World Championships in Japan

Two years ago at Worlds at the O2 in London, I spent a considerable amount of time sitting and talking to some of the  members of a large delegation from Japan, who were there to watch, evaluate and get ideas to help them in their planning of the 2011 Gymnastics World Championships to be held in Tokyo on October 7th – 16th, 2011 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Anyone who is familiar with the Japanese know their planning skills are already world class and I found it unlikely, at the time, that there was much they would find, for which they had not already planned. But it was not at all surprising that they were there to make sure.

The London Worlds were also a confirmation of my theories that a large part of the planning, back in Japan, was to use the 2011 Tokyo Gymnastics World Championships as a springboard to vault Japan back to the top of the sport in men’s gymnastics, and make a run at winning the Olympic team title at long last again, in 2012.

The London World championships showed me that Japanese women’s gymnastics is on the rise as well, aimed at peaking both in Tokyo 2011 and London 2012.  Koko Tsurumi, winning a medal at the 2009 World Championships, became the first Japanese woman win a World medal in more than 40 years. Some of my current favorite female gymnasts are Japanese, including Mai Murikami.

See one reason why I am a fan of Mai Murikami in this short video.

I am not the only one who is a fan. Want to see more of Mai Murikami?

In an open letter, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, asked F.I.G. officials to keep the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo saying the event would “uplift” people, especially the children of Japan.

I, for one, am all in favor of keeping the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo. The vote to do so will be taken at a meeting of the F.I.G. Council to be held on May 21st – 22nd, 2011 in San Jose, California (USA). I urge our delegates and all delegates to vote to support Japan and the Japanese people. Japan has already had to give up the right to host the 2011 figure skating world championships, which was scheduled to take place on March 21st in Tokyo, but is now being held April 24th – May 1st in Moscow instead.

There was no doubt that China planned and used the Beijing Olympics to showcase their gymnasts and athletes. It was great fun to be in the O2, at the 2009 London Worlds, when Beth Tweddle won a gold medal, surprisingly not on bars, but on floor. There is a history and tradition in our sport, and in all sport, for countries to plan and try to win on their home turf. The US team, nicknamed the Mag Seven, won their first ever team gold medal in the Women’s Team Competition at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It is a defining moment in an athletes career and in a county’s history to win like that.

No one wants to or would put any athlete at risk, least of all, the Japanese. But they have been working and planning for years for their triumphant moment and chance to return to the top of the sport of gymnastics. The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear tragedy has left it mark already, which is even more reason to give them their chance to showcase their gymnasts, their country and our sport.

I started coaching gymnastics shortly after the “Golden Age of Japanese Gymnastics” where the Japanese men won 5 consecutive Olympic titles from 1960 -1976. There had been almost two decades of Japanese champions and heroes, including Mitsuo Tzukahara (yes, the man for whom the vault is named) and 1976 Olympics gymnast Shun Fujimoto, who is featured in a story elsewhere on our site in “The Worlds’ Toughest Gymnast.” The Japanese men were the role models of the sport at that time.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura is the current reigning Men’s World All-Around Champion for the last two World Championships and the Japanese men won the silver medal in the team competition last year in Rotterdam. The Japanese men’s team is poised to make a breakthrough to the top of the sport in the World Championships, in Tokyo (or London or both). Let’s give the Japanese men and women their opportunity to shine in front of their countrymen in October. I am personally planning to be there to see it all.

While I can be, from time to time, as partisan as the next person, I appreciate the work of all gymnasts. Any gymnast, who has done the work to rise to the top of our sport, deserves our admiration, respect and support. I hope that we all support Japan, the Japanese people and Japanese gymnasts in their right to host a long planned gymnastics event, and to be able to use that, as one step back in their long road to recovery from the disastrous earthquake/tsunami events in Japan on March 11, 2011.

Barring any further disasters or any real proof of danger, ignoring unfounded fears, the F.I.G. should again vote to allow Japan to host the 2011 Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo will allow the international gymnastics community to help Japan rebuild their economy, showcase their gymnasts to the Japanese people uplifting them in their struggle to rebuild their country and their national spirit. To allow the Japanese to host an event they were already selected to host, and have spent years planning to be a showcase gymnastics premiere international sports event, is not only good sportsmanship, but keeps the international gymnastics community from giving any appearance of kicking a country when it is down.

UPDATE: The Executive Committee found that there were no travel advisories, and therefore no evidence of radiation danger, and so the FIG council vote did affirm keeping the 2001 Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo, Japan. While our article was not a deciding factor in any way, we did send it to the FIG, and we are happy that they have concurred with our own published assessment.

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One Response to “Keep 2011 Gymnastics World Championships in Japan”

  1. Full Twist May 12, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    Thanks for the link back John! Love the blog 🙂

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