Japan’s Kohei Uchimura soars to 6th world gymnastics title
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) Japan’s Kohei Uchimura breezed to his record sixth world gymnastics championship title Friday, putting together a series of nearly flawless routines to continue his long run of dominance.
Uchimura posted a total of 92.332, more than 1.6 points better than Cuban teenager Manrique Larduet and Deng Shudi of China. The triumph came two days after Uchimura helped Japan to its first gold medal in the world championships in nearly 40 years.
The 26-year-old Uchimura’s combination of elegance and athleticism makes him a heavy favorite to repeat at the 2016 Olympics.
American Donnell Whittenburg finished eighth after being added to the field when Belarus’ Dzmitry Barkalau withdrew. American teammate Danell Leyva struggled on pommel horse and high bar, fading to 17th.
The usually reserved Uchimura – who said he was disappointed after a high bar flub during team finals made the margin over second-place Britain a little slimmer than anticipated – let loose after his final score was unveiled. He made the ”6” sign with his fingers and pointed to the crowd that included his mother, who is still a competitive gymnast back home.
His biggest competition came from the surprising Larduet. He appeared right at home in his debut at a major international event. His powerful tumbling runs made the floor creak underneath him and his aggressive parallel bars display had a youthful enthusiasm that will certainly make him a factor in Rio next summer.
Still, Uchimura remains a man apart. Light on his feet yet still remarkably strong, his precision and difficulty are unmatched. He makes every set appear like just another training workout and his consistency is unrivaled.
Britain’s Max Whitlock, a silver medalist last year, appeared ready to make a push early behind a masterful pommel horse routine only to miss a connection on high bar and go splashing onto the mat. The miscue cost him a shot at the medal stand.
Whittenburg struggled through qualifying and wasn’t pushed into the field until Barkalau pulled out with an injury. The 21-year-old did just fine on short notice, his only real misstep coming on vault – typically one of his strongest events. Whittenburg overcooked his landing and ended up sitting down while trying to save it. Still, he hung around the top 10 all evening and finished with a steady 14.1 on pommels, a weak spot for the rising American star.
Leyva, the bronze medalist in the all-around at the 2012 London Olympics, was fourth in qualifying but never got on track in the finals. He muscled through a rough pommel horse routine and bailed in the middle of his high bar set on his 24th birthday.
Three years after bolding proclaiming he was coming for Uchimura’s spot, Leyva hasn’t made the kind of inroads he expected. Then again, neither has anyone else on arguably the greatest male gymnast of all-time.