Born to two ex-gymnasts, Kenzō Shirai took up gymnastics at the age of three. At age 15,he became the first person ever to perform the quadruple-twisting back layout. In 2013 he achieved his first victory at the floor event at the All-Japan Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
Also in 2013, he won a gold medal for floor at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships with his performance of the quadruple-twisting back layout (officially named the Shirai by the International Gymnastics Federation), with a difficulty score of F. He also came fourth in the vault event at the same Championships, performing a triple-twisting Yurchenko (now named the Shirai/Kim.)
Shirai went on to attend Nippon Sport Science University, contributing to the first all-around team win for Japan in 37 years at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastic Championships by winning gold on the floor. At the 2015 Toyota International Gymnastics Competition in Japan, he succeeded in performing the triple-twisting double tucked back somersault (named the Shirai 3 by the International Gymnastics Federation) that was given a difficulty score of H. He participated in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, competing on both vault and floor in the team finals, and winning gold. For the event finals, he won fourth place on the floor and bronze medal on the vault after successfully performing the Shirai 2. He gained gold medals on the floor and the vault events at the 2017 World Artistic Gymnastic Championships, and a bronze in the individual all-arounds. He came second in the individual allarounds at the 2018 All-Japan Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Nicknamed Mr Twist, he’s known internationally as a promising young star, and hopes are pinned on him for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
photo by Anoush Abrar