Mai Murakami, all-around silver medalist, ineligible for gymnastics worlds

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Mai Murakami, the world all-around silver medalist behind Simone Biles last year, will not be chosen for Japan’s team for October’s world championships. At the moment, at least.

“Yes, she is in eligible [sic] for the world championships for now,” Japan’s gymnastics federation emailed Monday when asked to confirm reports that Murakami was indeed out of the biggest meet between now and the Tokyo Olympics.

The federation later responded to a follow-up email Monday morning (Monday evening Japan time) asking if Murakami’s status could change or if she could be named an alternate.

“We don’t know yet,” it responded. “We will decide everything by the beginning of July.”

Murakami, 22, missed one of the nation’s spring qualifiers for fall worlds with a reported back injury. That is the reason she’s ineligible, according to Japanese media.

October’s worlds in Germany are crucial for the Japanese women. They must place in the top nine in the team event to qualify a full team for the Tokyo Olympics (setting aside the already qualified U.S., Russia and China).

That shouldn’t be a problem, given Japan has been in the top five at every Olympics and worlds since 2008 (again, setting aside the U.S., Russia and China). But not having its best gymnast, arguably the greatest female gymnast in the nation’s history, makes matters more difficult.

Murakami, a Tokyo native, was a 19-year-old alternate at the 2015 Worlds. She ended up competing due to a teammate’s injury and placed sixth in the all-around, the best finish by a Japanese woman in six years.

In her Olympic debut in Rio, Murakami had the best finish by a Japanese female gymnast, seventh on floor exercise. She followed that by topping all-around qualifying at the 2017 World Championships, where a fall off the balance beam in the final dropped her to fourth.

She bounced back to win the floor exercise title at those Worlds, becoming the second Japanese woman to win an Olympic or world all-around title. And the first since 1954.

Then last year, she finished between Simone Biles and Morgan Hurd, becoming the first woman to beat an American in an Olympic or world all-around final since 2014.

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