ROTTERDAM (NED), October 23, 2010: Her name is Tanaka Rie. He’s Tanaka Kazuhito. They’re both Japanese and members of the national team at the Rotterdam Worlds. Most importantly, they’re sister and brother!
Rie is twenty-three years old and since the time she was young has practiced gymnastics with a passion, one that has not only manifested itself in the training halls, but has permeated the university as well. She studies at the famous Nittaidai, the Nippon Sport Science University in Japan, under a professor who is none other than FIG Vice-President Koji Takizawa Sensei. Rie is a successful student of art in gymnastics.
Her sporting career led her to the threshold of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2009 Worlds in London, but she would never qualify. Her break finally came in Rotterdam in 2010, when she ranked 5th in the Team Competition and qualified for the All-around.
Kazuhito is twenty-five. Member of the Tokushukai Gymnastics Club, he’s been practising gymnastics since 1991 when he was six. A gifted athlete, he was swiftly spotted by Japan’s national team and joined their ranks in 2007. Kazuhito is a pure-blooded All-arounder, a King of Gymnastics, if you will. Comfortable on any apparatus, he masters them all. He admits having a preference for the Bars, especially Parallel, on which he is exceedingly skilled.
In 2008 and 2009, a first feat of arms at the international level took him to the FIG World Cups in Doha (QAT), Stuttgart and Cottbus (GER), where he ranked 4th, 2nd and 3rd on Parallel Bars, respectively. At the 2009 Worlds in London, he scraped the All-around podium just 1/10 of a point behind the late Yuri Ryazanov (RUS). In Rotterdam, the Japanese carried away his first Silver medal in the Team competition, an event in which he would perform on three apparatus only due to an ankle injury.
Yet another Tanaka watches every move made by Rie and Kazuhito from the delegation grandstands at Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena. Their father, former gymnast Shoji is here to encourage and support his children, remembering the days when he stood young and alone before judges and apparatus, much like Rie and Kazuhito do today.
In the Tanaka household, gymnastics is more than a family affair. And if these three aren’t enough to convince you, there are two others back in Japan who just might: their mother, Seiko, also a gymnast in her early years, and Yusuke, their youngest sibling who looks to have a promising future in the sport.
There you have the Tanaka gymnastics family history! Yame!