Japan’s Kohei Uchimura wins fourth straight title

ANTWERP, Oct 3, 2013: On the first day of finals at the 44th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, the world’s best 24 men’s All-around gymnasts battled it out for the discipline’s most prestigious title of the season.

ART WCh Antwerp/BEL 2013:

In a thrilling final, Kohei Uchimura of Japan made history on Thursday by adding an unprecedented fourth consecutive World All-around Gold to his exceptional medal collection. With a total score of 91.990, the 24-year-old phenomenon won by nearly two points over his compatriot Ryohei Kato, who came closest with 90.032 points. Fabian Hambuechen of Germany mounted an impressive fightback after placing 23rd in the first rotation to take the Bronze with a total of 89.332.

Seventeen countries were represented in this final, with Japan, China, Great Britain, Brazil, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland all having qualified the maximum of two gymnasts. The field included 14 European gymnasts and five each from Asia and Pan America.

Olympic Champion Uchimura, often referred to as “King Kohei” and widely considered the greatest gymnast of all time, dominated the competition as expected, leaving no doubt about his supremacy in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics. He sailed through the six rotations seeming to hit one routine after the other easily and outscoring the field on three apparatuses, namely Floor Exercise, Still Rings and Vault. On Pommel Horse and Horizontal Bar he registered the second highest scores and the third highest on Parallel Bars.

Uchimura’s 20-year-old compatriot Kato confidently announced before the competition that “we want to win Gold and Silver for Japan.” And that is exactly what happened. Kato, who qualified in third place, put in an overall consistent and clean performance, with his best apparatus being Floor Exercise (15.500) where he placed second behind Uchimura.

Qualified in seventh place, Hambuechen did not compete in the first group in the final. He began the competition on Pommel Horse, his least-loved apparatus and one that had troubled him during preliminaries. He scored 13.333 points and placed 23rd of 24 after the first rotation. With nerves of steel, the 25-year-old former World All-around Bronze (2006) and Silver (2007) medallist fought back to steadily move up in the rankings after each rotation. The first decisive moment came on Horizontal Bar, on which he had no choice but to go full risk with a 7.400 difficulty value. The Olympic Silver medallist on this piece, Hambuechen hit his routine to mark the highest score of this final (15.933) and to move into fourth place before the final rotation.

Samuel Mikulak (USA), runner-up in the preliminaries, performed well and was on medal course, sitting in third place after five apparatuses. But then came the moment when the excited spectators were holding their breath as Mikulak performed on Horizontal Bar and Hambuechen on Floor at the same time. While Hambuechen hit his routine unflinchingly, Mikulak showed nerves and suffered a break on his full Takamoto. He scored a 13.766, earning an 88.548 for sixth. “People probably expect me to be upset, but I am actually pretty happy,” said Mikulak. “I gained a lot of experience at my first World Championships.”

Max Whitlock and Daniel Purvis, who helped Great Britain to historic Olympic Team Bronze at London 2012, made their home country proud, placing fourth and seventh, with Whitlock narrowly missing out on a medal. His total score was 89.031; Hambuechen finished with 89.332. Max said: “I’m very happy with that, coming into my first World Championships and leaving with 4th place, competing amongst the very best is fantastic. Going up first on Pommel there was some pressure but I went all out for it and I’m really happy to have got through it, and the whole competition, cleanly.”

Brazil, host of the next Olympic Games, was represented by 21-year-old Sergio Sasaki Junior and 20-year-old Arthur Oyakawa Mariano in this final. Both had a very impressive competition in Antwerp, showing they were well on their “Road to Rio”. A delighted Sasaki Junior finished on a fantastic fifth place with a 88.949 total. His best event is Vault, where he marked the second highest score (15.200) on Thursday and also qualified for the Apparatus Final on Sunday. Oyakawa Mariano’s 85.140 placed him 17th.

Belarus’s Andrey Likhovitskiy improved from 12th place in qualification to eighth place in the final, shining most on Pommel Horse, where he marked the third highest score of the day (15.000).

After good preliminary results, Lin Chaopan and Zhou Shixiong of China disappointed with inconsistent performances in the final, placing ninth and tenth. Zhou’s highlight came on Parallel Bars, where he showed the best routine with 15.400 points.

Medal aspirant 20-year-old Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine started off well, but suffered a disaster in the fourth rotation on Horizontal Bar, when he totally lost rhythm and finally fell off the apparatus. Redemption came on Floor for Verniaiev, but he had lost too many points to catch up with the top scorers. He finished 15th with 85.665 points.

Colombia’s Jossimar Calvo Moreno, who caught the spectators’ attention during preliminaries, also started well. He even posted the highest score on his speciality apparatus, the Parallel Bars, tying with Zhou, but then he had two falls from the Horizontal Bar and did not finish his competition. —- FIG

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