Watanabe on world beam gold: ‘I came up with a solution and started with confidence’

Written by John Crumlish for International Gymnast Online

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Ellie Black (CAN), Watanabe Hazuki (JPN), Miyata Shoko (JPN)

Originally a reserve on the Japanese team at the recent World Championships in Liverpool, Watanabe Hazuki winningly negotiated some insecure moments prior her gold medal-winning performance on balance beam.

“In the warm-up and in podium training I made some mistakes,” said Watanabe after her 13.600 score in the November 6 balance beam final earned her the title over silver medalist Ellie Black of Canada (13.566) and bronze medal-winning Japanese teammate Miyata Shoko (13.533). “But I didn’t get scared about it. I came up with a solution and started with confidence.”

The 18-year-old Watanabe, who also scored 13.600 on balance beam in qualifications, made good use of her late starting status in the championships after filling in for an injured teammate.

Watanabe ended up competing on three of the four apparatus in qualifications, where in addition to ranking fifth on balance beam she placed 35th out of 145 gymnasts on uneven bars and 62nd out of 143 gymnasts on floor exercise. Japan went on to finish seventh in the November 1 team final.

“At first I was the reserve for the team, but when there was an injury they changed it and I got a chance to come to the world championships,” said Watanabe, who finished 48th all-around and 21st on balance beam in qualifications at the 2019 Junior World Championships in Gyor. “That was my first surprise. Now I have a medal too. It is all a bit surprising.”

Watanabe reflected on the competition with nostalgia and fulfillment after her victory.

“As a team, it will be sad to part at the end of the championships,” she said. “But overall it was a great experience.”

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