13 December 2009

I Love: Koko Tsurumi

I've found another gymnast to add to my list of much-loved Japanese people: Koko Tsurumi.

The 4'7" Tsurumi, out of Tokyo, this year in London became the first Japanese woman to medal at a World Gymnastics Championships since 1966. On watching videos of her performances, it's easy to see why. Koko lacks the difficulty of Chinese superstar He Kexin on bars (but, seriously - tell me who doesn't. That girl is like a magician on the apparatus) but executes her skills with perfection and grace, earning her a silver medal. She was third in the all-around - a few steps on the landing of a tumbling set on floor may have cost her silver, but her other landings on the apparatus were flawless, and reminiscent of a young Carly Patterson in 2004. Granted, Koko is somewhere between Carly and Nastia in terms of grace (Carly being all punch and power, and Nastia looking like she would fit seamlessly into the Bolshoi), but her stuck landings at Worlds this year were laudable.

At last year's Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Koko was a beam finalist, placing eighth (she was sixteen at the time). At Worlds this year she was able to best that by two places, despite a considerable wobble following a flip flop-back aerial series. On beam, like her other apparatus, she is precise and calculated, almost to her detriment - she nearly ran over time, but ignoring the stress involved with hearing the ten-second signal, was able to deliver a flawless dismount.

Unfortunately, Koko was born in an "off" year - meaning her best years will come between Olympic Games. There's nothing to say, however, that she won't be in tip-top form for the 2012 Games in London, (just ask Kosuke Kitajima about the benefits of preparing for a familiar competition venue) and if not then she has a viable shot at the all-around at 2011 Worlds - to be held in Koko's own hometown of Tokyo. Hell, I might even be there by then! (Tokyo, not competing at Worlds...)

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