The Chinese men's domination continues, as the Japanese women make history at home
With the 2019 World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships over, 11 of the 32 placements for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo have been awarded. Here’s a look at Olympic trampoline with Tokyo 2020 less than eight months away.
Hikaru Mori became Japan’s first World champion in trampoline since the sport became part of the International Gymnastics Federation in 1999. Her individual gold medal came a day after landing on the top step of the podium with her teammates in the women’s trampoline team event.
The golden haul surprised even her coach, Akiko Maruyama.
“We have a five-year plan, from when she was 16 to the Tokyo Olympics, but the goal here was for a medal, not two golds,” Maruyama said.
No Japanese athlete has won a medal of any colour at Olympic trampoline in its five appearances.
Mori will be looking to make more history next August when competition returns once again to her hometown. She’s sure to have plenty of support behind her there.
“I heard a lot of noise but there were way more fans today,” Mori said of the crowd that watched her take individual gold. “I could hear people saying it was going to be OK before I started and so I believed them.”
In order for Mori make history in Tokyo next year, she’ll have to get past two-time defending Olympic champion Rosie MacLennan of Canada.
The 31-year-old has twice been individual World champion, most recently in 2018, along with two silvers and three bronze medal wins. She was the gold medallist at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games.
But the road hasn’t always been easy.
After winning gold in Rio, she struggled with what she described as “frustration, pain, spaciness (which is terrifying when you’re flipping through the air at 25 feet), sadness, and anger.”
She tried to work through it, competing at a World Cup event in September 2017 despite feeling unprepared. The plan had been to return home, regroup and prepare for the World Championships. She tried to push through the pain and frustration but ended up withdrawing from the event. It was the first time since 2005 that MacLennan would miss the global meet.
“A year ago, I started back at square one. First, trying to solve the puzzle of what was going on,” she wrote ahead of the 2018 Worlds.
Eventually, her health – both mentally and physically – returned, and the result was a gold medal.
At the World Championships in late November, MacLennan once again earned a podium finish, taking third, setting her up for a run at a third-straight Olympic title in August.
Men’s trampoline has been all about Chinese domination. Since 2007, they’ve put men on the podium at the World Championships or Olympic Games every year but one: 2015.
Ironically, 2015 ushered in the era of the reigning king of the sport: Gao Lei. He won his first of four individual titles that year. His only major loss came at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where he earned the bronze medal. Uladzislau Hancharou won Olympic gold at Rio 2016.
“He is so good at controlling exactly where he wants to be on the trampoline,” said Ivan Litvinovich of Belarus, this year’s silver medallist.
“I felt like I had won,” he said of his runner-up finish.
Gao and teammate Dong Dong, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist, have dominated the sport together. Dong has an impressive nine individual trampoline medals, including three golds, at the World Championships. His Olympic resume is equally impressive, having earned a silver in Rio and a bronze in Beijing to complete his collection.
Together, the duo is expected to once again challenge for the podium.
There were sixteen qualification spots up for grabs at the World Championships in Tokyo.
In order to qualify at the worlds, an athlete had to advance to the top eight finals with no more than one quota spot being awarded per nation. Two Canadians and two Japanese advanced to the women’s final, opening up two additional spots to be decided at World Cup and continental events in early 2020. On the men’s side, three spots went unused in Tokyo with China, Russia and Japan all qualifying two into the final.
Additionally, because Japan qualified by merit to participate in competition at Tokyo 2020, the host country quota spot will be reallocated after other qualifiers are contested.