Champion Uchimura still striving in search for perfection

London – GBR, August 8, 2012: Uchimara, He is the world’s finest gymnast and owner of a brand-new Olympic Gold medal as Individual All-around Champion but he will return home to Japan only “50% satisfied” with his efforts at London 2012.

That was the verdict that Kohei Uchimura gave as he reflected on an Olympic performance that also included what he regards as the near misses of Silver medals in the Team and Floor Finals.

The 23-year-old was speaking at Japan House, the temporary hospitality centre near Green Park, where the Japanese Olympians come to deliver news conferences to the press from their country.

Anyone wondering where Uchimura ranks in importance to Japan’s Olympic effort will have received their answer by simply viewing a poster on the wall of some famous faces from their 2012 squad: there are stars of swimming, fencing, judo and table tennis but there in the middle is Uchimura.

And there in the middle on Wednesday was Uchimura explaining to Japanese reporters how a slight lapse of concentration near the end of his routine in the Floor Final had cost him a Gold he had felt tantalisingly close – he finished 0.133 points behind Zou Kai – and stressing how he believed Japan’s team could overtake their Chinese rivals in next year’s World Championships.

That was the 50% he was not happy with, yet there was evident satisfaction elsewhere. “The Individual All-Around Floor Exercise was what I was most satisfied with, that was the best moment of the Games for me,” he said in an interview afterwards. “The final landing of that exercise is what will remain with me from London.”

Reflecting on his London experience, he said he had arrived with a determination to live up to his billing as the world’s best. “For all the people who’ve supported me over the years I really wanted to show them what I can do. I wanted to go out there and do my best. I don’t feel pressure really. I channel it into power.”

It seemed like the pressure was telling in the qualification round when he had two falls, but he suggested otherwise: “I wasn’t too bad in the qualifying round, although my mind and body weren’t quite in sync. In the Team and Individual Finals I was able to get everything together as in the past.”

Now he has his Gold medal – after taking the All-around Silver in Beijing in 2008 – he has added weight to the argument espoused by some that he may be the best male gymnast of all time. But Uchimura preferred not to dwell on his success. “It’s great that people call me that but I think I’ve still got more to give more in me so I’m going to carry on in future.”

And will that include the Rio Olympics in 2016? “Rio is four years away but before that we’ve got the World Championships and I’ve got to train for them first. I’ll be taking one challenge at a time.”

His first priority, though, is to get home and enjoy his mother’s home cooking. With his Manga haircut and extraordinary abilities in a gymnasium, he may appear a superhero at times but he is only human after all. —- FIG

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