Uchimura Tops Vernyayev in 'Amazing Show' in Olympic All-Around Final
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Kohei Uchimura won his second Olympic all-around title Wednesday, barely holding off top qualifier Oleg Vernyayev of Ukraine, with Max Whitlock of Great Britain winning a historic bronze.

It's already being hailed as one of the greatest all-around competitions in the history of the Olympics. Six-time world champion and reigning Olympic champion Japan's Kohei Uchimura and top qualifier Oleg Vernyayev of Ukraine went toe-to-toe all the way until the very last routine battling for the all-around crown in Rio. For the first time since 2008, Uchimura was forced to be perfect in the all-around final as Vernyayev, the top qualifier, had the goods to deal him a defeat. At end it was the defending champion Uchimura who eclipsed the Ukrainian by the slimmest of margins in a dramatic competition –- 92.365 to 92.266 – to retain his title after eight years of being undefeated.

Uchimura started strong with a superb floor set sticking his triple twist dismount and earning 15.766 the top mark on the event. But after somewhat underrated 14.9 and 14.733 on pommels and rings respectively, he was trailing Vernyayev by .467 mid-way through the competition. The six-time world champion Uchimura nailed his Li Xiaopeng vault for a 15.566 for another top score of the day, but Vernyayev came back strong with a cold stuck Dragulescu for a 15.500.

Thanks to a massive 16.1 on his strongest event p-bars, Vernyayev had .901 lead on Uchimura with only high bar to go. The Japanese hit a routine to remember (piked Kovacs, Cassina, Takemoto to Kolman, Takemoto full twist to Yamawaki, and perfectly stuck double-twisting double layout) for 15.800, top scores of the day here also, to put the pressure on the Ukrainian. Vernyayev went last and needed 14.900 to take the gold medal for Uchimura. All in all he hit a really strong routine but at the end he took a hop on his double-twisting double layout, which made the difference in his score of 14.800, .099 behind Uchimura.

In addition to his eight-year unbeaten streak, Uchimura became the first gymnast to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles since compatriot Sawao Kato in 1968 and 1972.

"I didn't see any of Oleg's performances and I wasn't looking at the points difference, but then I heard the announcer and I started working it out in my head," said Uchimura, whose last loss was his silver medal in the all-around at the 2008 Olympics. "I knew it would come down to the high bar. My performance was good, so if I had lost I wouldn't have had any regrets. I thought I had lost, so this feels good."

Vernyayev, the top gymnast in qualification, was gracious in accepting silver. He is the first Ukrainian gymnast, male or female, to medal in the all-around at the worlds or Olympics since the late Alexander Beresh won bronzes at the 2000 Olympics and 2001 World Championships.

"I am happy I could make Kohei nervous," Vernyayev said. "But he still maintained the gold. I want to congratulate him. To compete with such a strong athlete that is the coolest thing. We managed to put an amazing show together."

Great Britain's Max Whitlock took the bronze thanks to a massive pommel horse score in the first rotation 15.875, top mark on the event, in addition to his consistent performances all around the rest of the events. Whitlock is the first British man to win an Olympic all-around medal in 108 years.

The thrilled Whitlock, 23, praised his rivals.

"Kohei has been my idol for a long time so I'm very proud for him and Oleg. I've been competing with [Vernyayev] for years. He's been producing huge scores in the last few years and I'm very honored to come third to those two. [Uchimura] is an unbelievable gymnast. He's the best gymnast of all time and he's just proved that."

After going clean from start to finish, Russia's David Belyavsky had a shot at the bronze and despite a spirited high bar set at the end (15.133) he fell short to Whitlock 90.641 to 90.498, and settled for fourth, one place higher than he placed in London. Chinese teammates Lin Chaopon and Deng Shudi also hit six for six and scored respectable 90.230 and 90.130, for fifth and sixth respectively.

U.S. medal hopeful Sam Mikulak started with a form break on pommels, and a weak landing on hip Lopez on vault (14.566) but fought his way up the rankings for seventh at the end with 89.631. Teammate Chris Brooks was in fifth after four rotations but ended up on his two weakest events, floor and pommel horse, which dropped him to 14th.

British rising star Nile Wilson finished in eighth, which he could have bettered, had he not gone to the wrong side on his Takemoto full twist in the last rotation. Hitting cleanly throughout the day home crowd favorite Sasaki from Brazil and Colombia's Calvo finished ninth and 10th respectively. Uchimura's teammate Ryohei Kato, 2013 world championships all-around silver medalist, was looking good to make top six until the last rotation where he fell on his Yamawaki on high bar and finished 11th.

World all-around silver medalist Manrique Larduet of Cuba, who had suffered a foot injury in podium training, fell on his Randi vault in the second rotation and elected to scratch the competition in order to save himself for the parallel bars and high bar finals.

Competition continues Thursday in Rio with the women's all-around final, where American Simone Biles is expected to dominate.

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