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Look out, guys! Tsurumi wins bronze at gym worlds

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The Japanese men aren't the only ones who can bring home the hardware.

Koko Tsurumi won the bronze at the world gymnastics championships on Friday, only the second time a Japanese woman has won an all-around medal. Keiko Ikeda took the bronze in 1996.

"The women's team has been strong, but since last year, there's more attention being paid," Tsurumi said through a translator. "They're going stronger and stronger, and I hope this continues for the Olympic Games."

Tsurumi finished with 57.175 points, behind Americans Bridget Sloan and Rebecca Bross.

Japan's men have a long, grand tradition in gymnastics. They were the Olympic champions from 1960 to 1976 and again in 2004, and Kohei Uchimura breezed to the men's world title on Thursday. Uchimura was the silver medalist at the Beijing Games.

But the women haven't had anywhere close to that success. Tsurumi made the finals on balance beam in Beijing, but finished last.

She's come a long way since then, impressing at these world championships. Delicate and elegant, her beam routine was effortless as she appeared to glide from one trick to another. She did a back handspring into the splits at one point, making it appear no more difficult than a cartwheel.

But with Sloan and Bross ahead of her going into the final event, Tsurumi had little hope of catching them. They were on floor and she was on vault, where she does an easier vault than most of the top women.

Still, a medal of any color is a triumph for the often-overlooked Japanese women.

Asked if she'd taken any inspiration from Uchimura, Tsurumi shook her head.

"We know the Japanese men are strong," she said. "It's natural for them to win."


HELPING HAND: An Olympic gold medal doesn't get you out of doing chores.

He Kexin, gold medalist on uneven bars in Beijing, helped her China teammates with cleaning and chalking the bars during Friday's all-around final. Each gymnast has very specific likes and dislikes about the feel of the bars, and there's always a flurry of scraping chalk off, watering the bars and applying new chalk between routines. (The men do the same thing with the parallel and high bars.)

Because there are two bars and not much time between gymnasts, it's usually a two-person job. He gamely helped out, at one point chalking up her hands and swinging her way, monkey bar-like, from one side of the high bar to the other.


MORE PRIZES: Daniel Keatings picked up another prize.

A day after winning the silver medal, Britain's first-ever in the all-around, Keatings and Mexico's Elsa Garcia Rodriguez Blanca were awarded the Longines Prize for Elegance on Friday. The award recognizes athletes who demonstrated "remarkable elegance," and anyone who competed in the all-around final at the world gymnastics championships was eligible.

Gymnasts were judged on their emotional appeal, beauty, charm, charisma, grace and harmony of movement.

"I'm very happy to have been awarded this prize," Keatings said. "I've been working hard on my finesse and style, and I'm glad it's showing out there in competition and people have noticed it."

Keatings and Garcia each received a check for $5,000 and a Longines watch.


ROPES AND MATS: Ana Maria Izurieta of Spain, 11th in qualifying, withdrew and was replaced by the Netherlands' Mayra Kroonen. ... Olympic bronze medalist Yang Yilin, who missed several months with a back injury, finished sixth. ... Judges have been sticklers on the execution mark, with silver medalist Rebecca Bross one of the few to get above a 9.0. She earned a 9.1 for execution on balance beam.