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Gymnastics: Japan's Ashikawa, Murakami win world championships gold

Urara Ashikawa of Japan competes in the balance beam final on the last day of the artistic gymnastics world championships on Oct. 24, 2021, at Kitakyushu General Gymnasium in Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture, southwestern Japan. (Kyodo)

KITAKYUSHU (Kyodo) -- Teenager Urara Ashikawa and veteran Mai Murakami both won gold for Japan on the final day of the world artistic gymnastics championships on Sunday, when former Olympic all-around champion Kohei Uchimura failed to make the medals podium.

    Murakami, this summer's Olympic women's floor exercise bronze medalist, who earned two medals on the final day, announced afterward that the worlds would be her final competition.

    "I'm retiring today," Murakami said. "I think at the very end I was able to grasp that moving moment in the form of a gold medal."

    Japan's six-time world all-around champion Uchimura, who was competing only on the horizontal bar, finished sixth in the apparatus final at Kitakyushu General Gymnasium.

    Tokyo Olympic all-around gold medalist Daiki Hashimoto, the all-around silver medalist here, took silver with 15.066 points behind China's Hu Xuwei, who scored 15.166 in the worlds' final competition.

    Uchimura showed no sign of regret at not adding to his medal hoard.

    "I can't do more. I honestly feel I gave it my all. I think I was able to convey to the spectators the wonder of gymnastics," Uchimura said, while praising Hashimoto.

    "When I look at Daiki, I see a bright future ahead. This was a special event for him in ways that the points he scored can't measure."

    At 18, Ashikawa, sixth on the balance beam at the Olympics, became the youngest of Japan's three women's champions on the apparatus. She scored 14.100 to earn gold, with Germany's Pauline Schaefer-Betz second and Murakami third.

    "After the Tokyo Olympics ended I've wanted a medal and I'm happy to have achieved my goal," Ashikawa said. "Going forward I want to deliver beautiful performances in the belief I won't make mistakes."

    The bronze turned out to be a warm-up for Murakami, who was golden with a joyous routine on the floor that proved to be her swan song.

    "I had been hurt and was really anxious over my lack of practice coming in and unhappy with my form, but the amazing response from the crowd was a huge boost for me," Murakami said.

    Murakami scored 14.066 to edge out Russian all-around champion Angelina Melnikova who earned a 14.000. Japan's Yuna Hiraiwa was eighth on the apparatus.

    Hidenobu Yonekura won the men's vault silver with a 14.866 score. Carlos Edriel Yulo of the Philippines, who is based in Japan, took gold with 14.916, while Israel's Andrey Medvedev was third.

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