Day 6: Kenzo Shirai

Only four days to go in the #countdowntoRio, so we’re heading full throttle with some of Rio’s likely medalists – here’s Japan’s rising star, 19 year old Kenzo ‘Prince Twist’ Shirai!

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It seems mad to say rising star, when he’s already a twice world champion, but Kenzo is still at university and the youngest member of the Japanese Olympic team. Floor is undoubtedly his specialism, although he boasts a decent vault as well (an eponymous triple twisting yurchenko that helped him make the Worlds final in 2013), and he will be very difficult to beat because of his 7.6 difficulty value – the highest across all the men’s apparatus.

Especially spectacular is his QUADruple twist – watch it here – and his front triple twist, another eponymous skill, and his 2 1/2 into 2 1/2, and his… well, his whole routine is just so impressive! His panache at twisting developed from flipping around on his parents’ trampoline in their gym at a young age and by 14 he was able to better his hero, six times world champion Kohei Uchimura (more below!), by mastering the quad twist. His petite frame enables him to twist quickly through the air, but it’s surprising he’s still so slim: when asked how he finds some downtime from gym, Kenzo replied “Chips are cheap so I can eat many … I think the time I use to eat them is relaxing.”

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(bit of salt and vinegar on that medal, Kenzo?)

The male Japanese team are traditionally excellent at the Olympics, winning the Silver in Beijing and London, and are coming off the back of a historic Gold medal performance at the 2015 Worlds – their first world title for 37 years after five consecutive wins from 1962-1968. They are led by superpower Kohei Uchimura, arguably the all-time greatest male gymnast, who was the first to win every all-around title in an Olympic cycle and hasn’t lost his crown for a staggering seven years! Ko-hei do it again? (sorry).

With these two stars, and a host of other strong team members, will Japan be able to steal the Olympic title away from China, or will GB or the USA challenge them to the top? Men’s qualifications start on Saturday!