Kohei Uchimura became the first gymnast to win four world all-around titles with his latest victory in Antwerp on Thursday, outscoring his Japanese compatriot Ryohei Kato and German veteran Fabian Hambüchen.
Kohei Uchimura became the first gymnast to win four world all-around titles with his latest victory in Antwerp on Thursday, outscoring his Japanese compatriot Ryohei Kato, 91.990-90.032. German veteran Fabian Hambüchen grabbed the bronze (89.332) during the final rotation, which saw a dramatic change in the standings.
Uchimura, 24, never looked better. He went six-for-six and outscored his leading prelim total by .066. There simply is little more for him to improve. The Nagasaki native posted the top marks on floor (15.558), rings (15.100) and vault (15.333); the second-best scores on pommels (15.133) and high bar (15.533); and he ranked third on parallel bars (15.333).
Great Britain's Max Whitlock, who posted the top pommels score (15.633), rallied to fourth, while Brazil's Sergio Sasaki, whose sky-high Dragulescu vault earned 15.20, finished fifth.
Sixth went to new U.S. champion Sam Mikulak, whose medal hopes burst in rotation six. Third after five events and breathing down Kato's neck, Mikulak could have grabbed silver with a repeat of his prelim high bar effort of 15.366. And it looked like he was headed in that direction. He caught his Cassina and Kolman with hardly a form break, nailed his half-Takemoto to dead handstand and caught the Moznik that followed. Then his dream week finally came apart. His Takemoto was flat, and he ended up doing a prolonged handstand push-up just to continue his routine. The result was a 13.766 and sixth place. To his credit, he maintained the smile that has become his trademark as a competitor.
Hambüchen was a distant fourth after five events, but he obviously smelled blood after Mikulak's nightmare on high bar. Perhaps knowing his chances are growing scarce, the 25-year-old tumbled a solid 15.133 floor set to grab bronze, his first world all-around medal since the silver he won in 2007.
Mikulak was not the only medal candidate to slip in the rankings. China's Lin Chaopan and Zhou Shixiong, fourth and fifth in prelims, failed to hit clean and finished ninth and 10th. In rotation two, Zhou could not complete his pommel horse dismount and actually put his foot on the horse before falling. On vault, Lin put his hands down after a Lopez. Both gymnasts scored in the 7's for execution on high bar.
Ukraine's Oleg Vernyayev, who has a higher overall D-score than Uchimura (38.4-38.1), might have been more disappointed than Mikulak. He had climbed to second place after his strong p-bars effort in rotation three, but high bar brought him back down, literally. His hand slipped off on a release, and after remounting, he suddenly could not get a back giant to go over the top. He scored 11.833, which actually was a 0.20 improvement over his prelim high bar effort. He finished 15th.
European champion David Belyavsky of Russia wasn't much better. A definite medal challenger, he was doing well until high bar, where he missed a Tkatchev. A 13.933 on pommels in the final rotation did little to improve his day, and he finished 12th.
But the day belonged to Uchimura, who looked focused and flawless throughout. His attention to detail and technique are exemplary, and the discussion of whether he is the best gymnast in history is becoming more one-sided. Detractors will point out that the great Japanese legends of the 1960s had only one world championships between Olympics. To win four would have taken 12 years, not four.
But others will claim that gymnastics has never been more demanding. Men's routines are longer than ever and growing in difficulty with each major competition. That Uchimura has been able to stay healthy long enough to win four consecutive world titles is remarkable. And that he's still winning by such large margins is proof that the sport has never seen such a talent.
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