Kitazono took up the sport at the age of three, when he discovered a gymnastics club near his house. “I saw it and thought, ‘I want to go there’,” he recalled. “My mum enrolled me in some gymnastics classes and I’ve been dreaming ever since of competing at the big events. Gymnastics is my life, and I am really enjoying it. To be honest, there is no me without artistic gymnastics.”
Just being able to compete at Buenos Aires 2018 is a dream come true in itself for the Japanese teenager, who was struggling with injury during qualifying for the YOG. “I fractured my ankle after a bad landing during training in 2017,” Kitazono explained. “I was still struggling with it at our national trials for the Youth Olympic Games, but it feels better now. It feels great to be here and I hope I leave Buenos Aires on a high. Of course my main goal is Tokyo 2020, but I see this as a huge opportunity, a first big step towards the main goal, which is to win gold in Tokyo. If I can win at Buenos Aires 2018, I can win in Tokyo.”
If Kitazono can back up that kind of talk with gold medals, then the lofty comparisons with the great Uchimura will prove to have been justified.
Fotomateriaal: Olympic Information Services (OIS)