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Some of the Japanese athletes who defeated Team China at the Tokyo Olympics have been subject to a storm of abuse on their personal social media accounts from Chinese nationalists.
On Wednesday, Japan’s Daiki Hashimoto won gold in the men’s all-around gymnastics final, edging out China’s Xiao Ruoteng by 0.4 points. At just 19 years old, Hashimoto is the world’s youngest gymnast to ever claim that medal.
As Japan celebrated his victory, some in China questioned the fairness of the result and accused the judges of favoritism toward host Japan by inflating Hashimoto’s score on the vault.
The anger, first set off on Chinese social media, soon spilled over to platforms typically censored by China’s Great Firewall and not accessible in China. Chinese trolls circumvented censorship and descended on Hashimoto’s Instagram account, inundating his feed with angry comments and tagging him in insulting posts.
Many called him Japan’s “national humiliation,” others accused him of stealing China’s gold medal. Some even tagged him in photos of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hashimoto later changed his privacy settings on Instagram, banning himself from being tagged, but angry comments have kept pouring under his posts.
Following the controversy, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) issued a statement Thursday explaining Hashimoto’s vault score, including a detailed list of the imperfections.
“The FIG can assess that the 14.7 score obtained by Hashimoto on this apparatus is correct in regards to the Code of Points, and so is the final ranking,” the statement concluded.
The nationalist rage against Hashimoto followed attacks on Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani, the Japanese table tennis duo who narrowly defeated the Chinese team to win the first-ever gold medal in mixed doubles Monday.
The attacks are an extreme expression of the rising tide of ultra-nationalism sweeping through Chinese social media in recent years, which has silenced many liberal and moderate voices. Some Chinese netizens have tried to call for an end to the online abuse, but they were also attacked.
China currently leads the overall medal table with 17 golds, followed by Japan — the hosts have claimed 15 golds so far. The US is third with 14 golds.