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Friday, July 11, 2008

Ikeda, Kikuchi named to Canada's Olympic men's gymnastics squad

Staff writer

Veteran Japanese-Canadian gymnasts Ken Ikeda and David Kikuchi will represent Canada for the second time in the Summer Olympics, The Associated Press reported on Thursday.

The 26-year-old Ikeda, who resides in Abbotsford, British Columbia, was named the first of Canada's two alternates for the Beijing Games. He has been a member of the Canada's senior national artistic gymnastics team since 2000.

Kikuchi, a 28-year-old from Halifax, Nova Scotia, joined the national squad in 1999.

Both gymnasts have strikingly similar backgrounds: They made their Olympic debuts at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, and they are coached by their fathers.

Ikeda's dad, Mits, is the head men's coach of the Twisters Gymnastics Club in Abbotsford. What's more, his older brother, Richard, a longtime gymnast, competed in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games and is an assistant coach at Twisters.

Kikuchi's father, Tak, has guided him since he began competing in the sport at age 7.

Kikuchi has been dubbed Canada's "lord of the rings," for his expertise and skills (two national titles) in the still rings event.

At the 2008 Canada Gymnastics Championships in Calgary, Kikuchi placed second in the all-around competition. He was second in the pommel horse and parallel bars, tied for second in the horizontal bar and was the top finisher in the still rings. Kikuchi was Canada's 2007 all-around champion and Kikuchi's wife, Crystal Gilmore, competed for Canada in the 2000 Sydney Games.

Ikeda was seventh overall at the 2008 national meet, including a gold medal-winning effort in the pommel horse.

In 1999, Ikeda had a stellar effort in his first international meet, picking up two silver medals (pommel horse, parallel bars) at the Japan Junior Invitational meet in Yokohama.

Canada placed sixth at the 2006 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

Jeff Thomson, Gymnastic Canada's men's program director, believes his team can contend for a medal in Beijing.

"The six starters have shown they can make World Cup finals. So on a good day, they could make the Olympic finals," Thomson was quoted as saying on CBC Sports' Web site.

"And once they are there, anything can happen."

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