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Written by dwight normile    Monday, 30 April 2018 07:20    PDF Print
Streak Snapped: At Age 29, Can Kohei Uchimura Win Another World All-around Title?
(4 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Kohei Uchimura’s goal has always been to perform beautiful gymnastics. He simply wants to entertain the audience with complex and beautiful gymnastics. The judges are merely an afterthought. That’s probably why he’s been so successful. “I think the performance that touches people’s hearts is beautiful,” he says.

So when he injured his left ankle on vault, his second event during the qualifications at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal, he was devastated. Uchimura had won an unprecedented six world all-around titles, starting in 2009 and ending in 2015. He was going for his seventh.

“I am very frustrated with myself that I could not compete in all six events,” he says. Uchimura competed on three events in Montreal: rings (14.000); vault (15.166); and parallel bars (14.033). He landed his vault a little low (Li Xiaopeng: roundoff half-onto the table, front layout-21/2 twists). He had only a small hop forward, his left ankle absorbing most of the force of the landing. When he turned to leave the podium, however, he lifted his tender left ankle and leaned over to rub the outside of it. (After an MRI and X-ray, he was diagnosed with an incomplete tear of the anterior talofibular ligament.)

After competing a somewhat loose parallel bars routine, he limped off the podium after his double pike dismount. He tried warming up high bar but was forced to withdraw from the competition.

“My ankle is recovering well,” says Uchimura, who competed on four events at the Doha (Qatar) World Cup in March: pommel horse (where he fell), rings, vault and high bar. He did not make any finals.

But competing in Doha will enable him to get a feel for the Aspire Dome, since the 2018 World Championships will also be held in Doha in October. And will he compete in the all-around at those Worlds? “Yes, of course,” he says.

Japan was still represented on the podium at the 2017 Worlds, with Kenzo Shirai winning the all-around bronze. He was .017 shy of the silver. Uchimura said that if his teammate had stuck more landings, he might have won the gold.

Uchimura was born Jan. 3, 1989, near Nagasaki, where his parents, Kazuhisa (father) and Shuko (mother) owned a gym. His younger sister, Haruhi, is also a gymnast. Little Kohei grew up in that gym. “[My father] just told me to enjoy the sport, and if I can’t enjoy it, it means nothing,” he says. “I think this was very good for me.”

When Uchimura was 15 he left his parents’ gym to train in Tokyo with is role model, Naoya Tsukahara, son of the great Mitsuo Tsukahara. “At first [my parents] were against me, but I was a child that never listens to somebody once I made up my mind firmly,” he says. “So in the end, they said OK, reluctantly.”

Asked what he liked most about his streak, Uchimura says, “My proudest competition was the 2011 Tokyo World Championships.” Uchimura won the all-around by more than 3.0, and he also won the gold on floor exercise and the bronze on high bar. It’s interesting that he would name those Worlds. After Japan dominated the team competition in qualifications, his team placed second to China in the team finals.

The majority of Uchimura’s career has been under the open-ended Code of Points. Given how it has been constantly changed since it was implemented at the 2006 World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, Uchimura does not want to return to the 10.0 judging system. “I personally believe that the current rules are good for me, because I have won a number of titles using this system,” he says.

Since only one component of the Code of Points is open ended (Difficulty), would he like to see the Execution deductions also subtracted from the Difficulty score? “It would be great if beautiful execution were rewarded in this way,” he says.

And if he could change the Code? “I’d like to bring back the bonus for virtuosity,” he says. “I would like to see excellent scores for excellent performances that nobody can equal.”

Few gymnasts can match Uchimura in terms of pure technique, perfect form and virtuosity. In that respect, he’s a tuxedo in a rack of tweeds.

Uchimura was married after the 2012 London Olympics, where he won his first Olympic all-around title. (He placed second at the 2008 Olympics.) His wife, Chiho, is a former gymnast, and the couple have two daughters, born in 2013 and 2015.

With regard to having two kids, Uchimura says, “I feel a greater sense of responsibility. It positively affects my performance.”

Even at 29, Uchimura says he is not training fewer hours than he did when he was younger. “It hasn’t changed much,” he says. But the aches and pains are always a factor. “As a gymnast, everyone has nagging injuries. In my case, it’s back pain.”

He’s also working on a few new skills, such as a Bretschneider (double-twisting Kovacs). He may need it. In April 2017 he won his 10th straight All-Japan Championships, but he beat runner-up Yusuke Tanaka by only .05. He defeated bronze medalist Kenzo Shirai by .25.

It may seem odd that Uchimura has won zero event titles over three Olympics, and only three event titles at World Championships: floor exercise, 2011 (Tokyo); parallel bars, 2013 (Antwerp); and high bar, 2015 (Glasgow). But it is really a testament of his balance as an all-around gymnast.

The 2016 Rio Olympics must have been satisfying for Uchimura. He won his second Olympic all-around title, but more importantly, Japan won its first team title since the 2004 Athens Games.

As Uchimura looks ahead to the new year, he understands his ultimate goal. “The serious part is the (2018) World Championships,” he says. “I have to consider what kind of routines I’ll do at Worlds. The things I’m hoping for are fairly big. That’s a battle against myself. I do it to battle on the world stage, after all. It’s not about what happened last year. More than reclaiming a title or getting revenge. I just want to get back out there; I’ve kept everyone waiting.”

Regardless of what aspirations Uchimura has, or what his future goals are, he has already written his chapter in the history of gymnastics. Until some other amazing gymnast comes along — and one day that may happen — he will always be considered the greatest gymnast the sport has ever seen.

Father time remains undefeated, but he’s definitely given Kohei Uchimura a few years more to work his magic.

This story was printed in the April 2018 issue.

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Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 17 April 2018 08:33    PDF Print
Rogers: 'I'm Going To Let The Wind Take Me'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Two-time Canadian Olympian Brittany Rogers told IG that, despite intimations of her imminent retirement, her medal-winning performances at this month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, have her eying the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo.

“My performances in Australia could honestly go either way,” said the 24-year-old Rogers, who won gold in the team competition and silver on uneven bars in Gold Coast. “It could seal the deal and give me satisfaction and closure on my career, or it could motivate me to continue on. Considering I’ve been pushing back my retirement for a few years now, all signs would point to me continuing on to Tokyo.”

As fans reveled in the Canadian women’s first Commonwealth Games team victory in 28 years, Rogers, who competed for the University of Georgia, said teamwork and confidence assured her of their potential for gold in Gold Coast.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a surprise that we won the gold, due to the amount of talent and experience within the team,” said Rogers, who competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. “I think the key this time was the unity and bond we developed throughout the week that really made us trust each other and step up when it mattered the most. I had no doubts that this team was going to have a successful Games. It was more of a question regarding which color medal we’d win.”

Rogers, who placed first on vault and fifth on balance beam at last summer’s University Games in Taipei, said she is not rushing a decision relating to Tokyo 2020.

“All I know for right now is that I am soaking in all of the success the team and I had in Australia, as well as giving my mind and body a break,” she told IG. “I have a few job opportunities in the works which I am really looking forward to, but in the meantime I’m going to let the wind take me where it wants to take me.”

To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Wednesday, 04 April 2018 08:11    PDF Print
Doha Silver Gives Kimble 'Upper Hand'
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

U.S. gymnast Marvin Kimble told IG that winning the silver medal on high bar at last month’s World Cup of Doha served multiple advantages as he eyes this fall’s World Championships, which will also take place in Doha.

“Every meet is a stepping stone,” said Kimble, who also finished seventh on parallel bars and eighth on rings in Doha. “I just want to hit my routines to the best of my ability. It was a good opportunity to compete where Worlds will be held. I feel like I have a little bit of an upper hand knowing what it’s going to be like.”

Kimble, who finished 0.267 points behind 2017 world high bar champion Tin Srbic of Croatia in the high bar final in Doha, said better execution can help him match Srbic in future meets.

“I’m working on cleaning up my high bar each meet,” he said. “I think that’s what it’s going to take to make the jump.”

Kimble, the 2017 U.S. co-champion on rings and champion on high bar, placed second all-around and first on vault at the Winter Cup Challenge, a U.S. ranking meet, earlier this year. Although a few of his apparatuses are particularly strong, he plans to remain a competitive all-arounder.

“I am hoping to make a big impact in the all-around,” Kimble told IG. “As I’ve seen in the past, that’s the best way to punch your ticket onto any team.”

To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition or to order back issues of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

Written by dwight normile    Monday, 26 March 2018 08:04    PDF Print
Chusovitina Wins Vault In Doha World Cup
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

At 42, Oksana Chusovitina keeps winning vault. At the 2018 World Cup in Doha, Qatar, March 21-24, she won the event with a layout Rudi and a Tsukahara-11/2 twist.

In qualifications, Kohei Uchimura competed on pommel horse (where he fell), rings, vault and high bar, but did not qualify to any finals. The closest he came was on vault, where he placed ninth (two vaults).

“I will check all the footages of my performances when I get back to Japan,” the 29-year-old Uchimura said. “I need to work on my weaknesses. Training was excellent, but I wasn’t in the best mood.”

Dmitri Lankin of Russia claimed the floor title, mounting with a roundoff triple back. Ukrainian Igor Radivilov won rings and vault, and Zou Jingyuan of China won pommel horse and parallel bars. 2017 World high bar champion Tin Srbic won that event in Doha.

Nina Derwael of Belgium won uneven bars by a wide margin, and Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos clinched the balance beam title. And there was a three-way tie on women’s floor exercise.

Women’s VT: 1. Oksana Chusovitina UZB 14.433; 2. Pyon Rye Yong PRK 14.383; 3. Colin Devillard FRA 13.949.

UB: 1. Nina Derwael BEL 15.300; 2. Uliana Perebinosova RUS 14.566; 3. Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos FRA 14.400.

BB: De Jesus Dos Santos 13.933; 2. Marine Boyer FRA 13.466; 3. Derwael 13.400.

FX: 1(t). Axelle Klinckaert BEL, Elisa Meneghini ITA, Kim Su JONG PRK 13.333.

Men’s FX: 1. Dmitri Lankin RUS 14.733; 2. Carlos Edriel Yulo PHI 14.433; 3. Ryohei Kato JPN 14.200.

PH: 1. Zou Jingyuan CHN 15.100; 2. Lee 14.800; 3. Alec Yoder USA 14.700.

SR: 1. Igor Radivilov UKR 15.266; 2. Ibrahim Colak TUR 15.000; 3. Zou 14.966.

VT: 1. Radivilov 14.599; 2. Qu Ruiyang CHN 14.566; 3. Ferhat Arican TUR 14.533.

PB: Zou 16.200; 2. Xiao Ruoteng CHN 15.233; 3. Arican 15.166.

HB: 1. Tin Srbic CRO 14.800; 2. Marvin Kimble USA 14.533; 2. Deng Shudi CHN 14.500.

For complete results, click here.

Written by dwight normile    Friday, 23 March 2018 07:44    PDF Print
Nonomura, Melnikova Clinch Birmingham World Cup
(7 votes, average 2.71 out of 5)

Shogo Nonomura of Japan and Angelina Melnikova of Russia (pictured) won the men’s and women’s all-around titles, respectively, in Birmingham (England), held March 21-22. It was the third of four all-around World Cups. The first two were the American Cup in Chicago and the DTB Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, and the last will be in Tokyo on April 14.

Nikita Nagornyy of Russia placed second and Britain’s James Hall finished third in the men’s competition. Margzetta Frazier of the U.S. claimed the silver and another Brit, Alice Kinsella won the bronze.

Men’s AA: 1. Shogo Nonomura JPN 84.797; 2. Nikita Nagornyy RUS 84.731; 3. James Hall GBR 83.531; 4. Dominick Cunningham GBR 82.531; 5. Sun Wei CHN 81.999; 6. Marcel Nguyen GER 81.232; 7. Donothan Bailey USA 79.231; 8. Lucas de Souza Bitencourt BRA 77.698.

Women’s AA: 1. Angelina Melnikova RUS 54.465; 2. Margzetta Frazier USA 53.932; 3. Alice Kinsella GBR 53.099; 4. Jade Chrobok CAN 51.366; 5. Hitomi Hatakeda JPN 51.133; 6. Vera van Pol NED 51.032; 7. Liu Jieyu CHN 48.832; 8. Sarah Voss GER 48.131.

For full results, click here.


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