By Pritha Sarkar

Athens - Naoya Tsukahara created a unique piece of history on Monday when he followed in his father's footsteps by capturing the Olympics gymnastics team gold medal for Japan.

Tsukahara senior, the great Mitsuo, was at the heart of the golden Japanese era when they won the team events in 1968, 1972 and 1976.

Naoya and Mitsuo are the first father and son to win Olympic gymnastics team golds since the Second World War.

The team of 2004 revived memories of their glorious gymnastics past when they upstaged favourites China and the United States to snatch the Olympic men's team crown for the first time in 28 years.

The victory also ended a 20-year gold drought the country had suffered in the sport. The last time a Japanese won an Olympic title was in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Koji Gushiken and Shinji Morisue had claimed the men's all-round and horizontal bars respectively that year in fields weakened by the Soviet-led boycott.

Japan dominated men's gymnastics from the 1960 Rome Olympics through to the 1976 Games in Montreal, edging out the powerful Soviet Union every time.

Since then, they had captured only three team bronzes until this victory at the Athens Games.

Naoya, who lists his father as the greatest influence on his career, was joined on top of the podium by Isao Yoneda, Daisuke Nakano, Takehiro Kashima, Hiroyuki Tomita and Hisashi Mizutori.

The 27-year-old's father coached him as a junior but for the last 11 years, one of his coaches has been ex-Soviet champion Nikolai Andrianov.

Andrianov enjoyed a great rivalry with Tsukahara senior, beating him to the Olympics all-round title in 1976. Between them, Mitsuo Tsukahara and Andrianov won 12 Olympic gold medals.

Naoya, however, will be unable to add to his personal haul in Athens as he was one of only two members of the team who failed to qualify for any of the individual finals.