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[Tokyo Olympics] Gymnastics' coach heartened by surprise showings in qualification

South Korean artistic gymnast Shin Jea-hwan takes part in his podium training for the men's vault at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo ahead of the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
South Korean artistic gymnast Shin Jea-hwan takes part in his podium training for the men's vault at Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo ahead of the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
A pair of South Korean artistic gymnasts have found themselves in surprise contention thanks to strong performances in the qualifying rounds at the Tokyo Olympics.

And coach Shin Hyung-ook is so heartened by what he saw from Shin Jea-hwan in the men's vault and Ryu Sung-hyun in the men's floor exercise on Saturday that he believes they can both capture gold medals.

Shin Jea-hwan won the men's vault qualifying with 14.866 points from his two attempts. Ryu ranked third among eight finalists in the floor exercise with 15.066 points. Another South Korean, Kim Han-sol, was fifth in the same event with 14.900 points.

"Shin Jea-hwan and Ryu Sung-hyun both perform skills with the highest degrees of difficulty," Coach Shin said. "If they can concentrate on improving their landings, I can see them doing really well in the finals."

The only downside to the day was the absence of Yang Hak-seon in the vault final. Yang, the 2012 Olympic champion, ended up in ninth in the qualification.

Yang remains the only South Korean gymnast with an Olympic gold, and the coach believes he will have company by the end of the Tokyo Olympics.

"I think Shin Jea-hwan should be able to win gold with ease if he can stay on track," the coach added.

Also helping the South Koreans: some pre-Olympic medal contenders fell by the wayside Saturday.

Carlos Edriel Yulo of the Philippines, the 2019 world champion in the floor exercise, missed out on the final after scoring only 13.566 points to rank 44th. Hong Kong's Shek Wai Hung, the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games vault gold medalist, only finished 12th in the qualification with 14.274 points.

As for Yang, Coach Shin said the veteran was still suffering from effects of a nagging right hamstring injury.

"He'd been training hard despite risks of reinjuring his hamstring, but he just didn't have the strength," Shin said.

Yang is the first alternate in case a gymnast pulls out of the final.

The men's floor exercise final is Aug. 1, followed by the men's vault final the next day. (Yonhap)
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