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The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Two successive All Japan championships in his specialty, the vault
The ace of the Gymnastics Club, aiming for the winner’s podium in team competition as well

Keisuke Ogura

As just a third-year high school student, Keisuke Ogura was the champion of the vault in the individual events at the All Japan Gymnastics Competition Championships. Ogura had suddenly achieved first place and made a stunning debut during his first time on the major stage he had long looked forward to and in the event in which he had been confident he could not be beaten since elementary school when he first began gymnastics. Ogura left this same competition three years ago feeling disappointed.

“The other participants screwed up; I was the only one who didn’t. I believe I didn’t win because of my abilities, but because I was lucky.”

Vaulting is a contest which involves taking an approach run, jumping off of a springboard, striking the vault with one’s hand’s, and flying through the air. In this brief moment, participants compete based on the difficulty of their artistry and techniques.

The following year in 2012, Ogura entered Waseda University and appeared in the All Japan Championships as a member of the Gymnastics Club. In addition to the heavy pressure of achieving two consecutive championships, an injury just prior to the competition left Ogura in far from perfect shape, resulting in second place. Ogura used this vexing defeat as a springboard for 2013. Once again Ogura was injured prior to the competition, but feeling relaxed because he was not trying to maintain a consecutive title, he was able to exhibit his full abilities and once again achieved first place. This year, with a successive championship in the balance, Ogura made a perfect performance at the All Japan Championships and stood at the top of the winner’s podium again, a great difference from second place. “Although there was just as much pressure as two years’ ago, I just focused on having fun. I was even able to watch the performances of other participants and participated in a relaxed state.” This satisfying achievement shows the significant growth Ogura has made since succumbing to the pressure of two years ago.

Ogura boasts the strongest vault abilities in Japan, and there are high expectations for him in global competitions such as the Olympics, but Ogura himself is humble, stating that such things are still far away. Only around seven names are elected to be members of international competitions, and one must have strong all-around individual abilities (competing with combined points in six events: Floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar). Although Ogura’s rank has risen each year, he was 23rd at this year’s All Japan Student Championships. Even though Ogura has already been elected a U21 Japan representative, he is of course still not satisfied. Although in recent years there has been a trend toward the proactive election of specialists in each event, it is necessary to clear a high reference point in international competitions and Ogura has yet to achieve such scores. “The vault in particular is an event where there is a big difference with the world’s top competitors. That’s why I won’t have a chance without improving in other events.”

In gymnastics, not only the individual events but also team competition is gaining attention. As teams compete on the total combined points based on the individual points of members elected from the team, members must meet a high standard in all six events. Waseda placed 4th in this year’s Japan Student Championships, and next year’s goal is to place 3rd or higher. In order to achieve this goal, it is essential to improve abilities in all events.

“I’m putting a lot of effort into training in the horizontal bar, which I’m particularly poor at, but honestly, even now I find doing the big techniques to be scary. But I feel that the more I practice, the better I get, so I’m still having fun. Because I’ve enjoyed and been good at the vault since childhood, I don’t know what I can work on to get better now, so it’s difficult sometimes. But I don’t want to have any regrets, so all I can do is try my best.”

Aiming for three consecutive All Japan Championships wins, Ogura continues to advance towards the next stage. In order to open the door to the still-distant global stage, Ogura will continue to polish his techniques with daily practice.

Ogura striking a victorious pose after completing his performance in the individual events at the All Japan Student Championships.

The men’s team banded together as one, placing 4th and scoring a new all-time high record for Waseda University with a combined score of 429.250.

Gymnastics is a sport which is heavy on the body; scrupulous care before and after practices is essential.

(Offered By:WASEDA WEEKLY)

Keisuke Ogura
Third Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Chiba, Keisuke Ogura graduated from Narashino City Senior High School. Although he often spends his two days off per week relaxing, Ogura also likes to eat sweets and go out for them. He particularly likes the pancakes and parfaits at Tully’s Coffee.