15-year-old Miyakawa vaults into Rio medal picture

15-year-old Miyakawa vaults into Rio medal picture
Sae Miyakawa performs at the All-Japan gymnastics championships at Tokyo’s Yoyogi Gym on April 25.

Still just 15, gymnast Sae Miyakawa has made such steady progress she is already being considered among the mix for global medals. Her goal is to make that happen at next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Miyakawa thrilled the crowd at the All-Japan gymnastics championships in late April, using her powerful legs to put on high-level performances in the floor exercise and vault - events in which she is aiming to strike gold at Rio.

During the floor exercise segment of the individual all-around final, Miyakawa started off with a bang. She began with a double backwards somersault in a layout position with a single twist - a manoeuvre with an H-level difficulty rating. In the second half of her routine, when stamina is at a premium, she added an F-level double layout back somersault.

But what really got the spectators roaring was how she topped off the programme - with a perfectly executed double backwards tuck somersault with a double twist, another H-level move.

Her D score, which reflects the overall difficulty of the routine, was 6.2. That is comparable with the 6.4 that Simone Biles of the United States scored in winning the floor exercise at last year's world championships.

Miyakawa was just as dynamic in the vault, putting on another world-class performance. With her stirring leap, she looked far bigger than her 1.45-meter frame.

Even Asuka Teramoto, who won the individual all-around title, could not avoid noticing Miyakawa's ability, saying "Miyakawa-san is one to keep an eye on."

Miyakawa started gymnastics at a local club near her home at age 2, and got seriously about competition since joining her current club, Saints, when it was established.

"The mat [at the club] is extremely hard, so I just naturally developed my strength while I was jumping there," she said.

Miyakawa won a bronze medal in the vault at last year's Youth Olympics, and won the gold in the vault and silver in the floor at the All-Japan gymnastics individual championships.

This spring, she entered Seibudai High School in Saitama Prefecture, and is now old enough to be eligible to compete at the world championships.

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