Kohei Uchimura

Kohei Uchimura’s place in gymnastics history after record-breaking fourth world all-around championship

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Kohei Uchimura‘s fourth world all-around championship was his closest yet, but the Japanese superstar still dominated and moved into sole possession of a gymnastics record.

Uchimura defended his title of world’s greatest gymnast by a whopping 1.958 points at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, on Thursday.

He led after all six rotations and posted the highest score of the 24 gymnasts on three of six apparatus, totaling 91.990 points.

American Sam Mikulak was in position for a medal until a major error on his final event, high bar. The 2012 Olympian and U.S. all-around champion finished sixth with 88.548 points.

“You’ve got to learn to lose before you can learn to win, I guess,” Mikulak, 20, said in a video interview posted by USA Gymnastics.

Japan’s Ryohei Kato took silver (90.032), and Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen stepped up for bronze (89.332).

Uchimura, 24, became the first gymnast to win four world all-around titles, breaking his tie with retired Russian Svetlana Khorkina, whose three were not consecutive like Uchimura’s four have been.

The World Championships continue with the women’s all-around final Friday, where two Americans are medal favorites, and apparatus finals Saturday and Sunday.

World Gymnastics Championships broadcast schedule

How dominant has Uchimura been at the World Championships and the Olympics?

In 2009, Uchimura won by 2.575 points — the margin separating second place from eighth place.

In 2010, Uchimura won by 2.283 points — the margin separating second place from 13th place.

In 2011, Uchimura won by 3.101 points — the margin separating second place from 14th place.

In 2012 (Olympics), Uchimura won by 1.659 points — the margin separating second place from eighth place.

In 2013, Uchimura won by 1.958 points — the margin separating second place from eighth place.

There’s a strong argument Uchimura is the greatest gymnast of the last 40 years, given nobody has won multiple Olympic all-around titles since 1972. There is more debate if you compare generations and dig deeper into history.

On the men’s side, Japan’s Sawao Kato won Olympic all-around titles in 1968 and 1972 and silver in 1976. In those days, the World Championships were held once every four years. Now, they are every year except Olympic years. Soviet Viktor Chukarin (1952, ’56) and Italian Alberto Braglia (1908, ’12) also won back-to-back Olympic titles.

On the women’s side, Larisa Latynina and Věra Čáslavská won back-to-back Olympic titles in 1952 and 1956 and 1960 and 1964, respectively. Latynina, with 18 Olympic medals, was the most decorated Olympian of all time until Michael Phelps passed her in 2012.

Uchimura owns five Olympic medals, including all-around gold in 2012 and silver in 2008. His 11 World Championship medals are well behind Vitaly Scherbo‘s record (23). He could win three more this weekend in apparatus finals on floor exercise, parallel bars and high bar.

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Russia names flag bearer for Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08:  Sergey Tetyukhin #8 of Russia celebrates a point in the second set against Poland during the Men's Volleyball quarterfinals on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Earls Court on August 8, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Russia’s depleted Olympic team named its flag bearer for the Rio Games Opening Ceremony, giving the honor to volleyball player Sergei Tetyukhin, who’s set to make his sixth Olympic appearance at 40 years old.

The announcement came via the Instagram page for Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who has become somewhat of a spokesperson for the Russian team amidst the country’s doping scandal. Isinbayeva will not compete in Rio since her nation’s track and field team is banned, but she spoke to Russia’s athletes during a ceremony Wednesday.

“Today, as never before, we need to stay united and become a family,” Tetyukhin said before the athletes departed for Rio on Thursday.

Russia’s flag bearer was set to be announced Wednesday, according to Russian news agency TASS, but Isinbayeva said in her Instagram post (according to Google translate), “Flag bearer at the Olympics in Rio have already been defined, it is a great athlete, Olympic champion, Sergey Tetyukhin volleyball. Yesterday at a reception at the President he acted with dignity and promised to fight for the victory in Rio.”

The Russian men’s volleyball team has won a medal at the past four Olympics, but Tetyukhin’s time with the team began at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Russia placed fourth there, then took silver in 2000, bronze in 2004 and 2008, and gold in 2012. Tetyukhin was Russia’s third-leading scorer in London.

The team will be an outside medal contender in Rio. After winning the FIVB World League in 2013, the Russians have placed no better than fifth since. They finished fifth at the 2014 World Championship, fourth at the 2015 World Cup, and sixth at the 2015 European Championship.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova was Russia’s flag bearer for the London Olympic Opening Ceremony, but she will miss the Rio Games while serving a drug suspension.

MORE: Number of Russian athletes banned from Olympics reaches 105

Who will be the first U.S. gold medalist in Rio?

Katie Ledecky, Leah Smith
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The U.S. has no gold-medal favorites on the first day of the Olympics, which puts it in jeopardy of not reaching the top of the podium on Day 1 of the Games for the first time since 1996.

Who will be the first U.S. medalist and gold medalist in Rio? Let’s take a look.

The 12 Day 1 finals on Saturday, Aug. 6, in somewhat chronological order:

Shooting: Women’s air rifle
Shooting: Men’s air pistol
Cycling: Men’s road race
Fencing: Women’s epee
Archery: Men’s team event
Judo: Women’s 48kg
Judo: Men’s 60kg
Weightlifting: Women’s 48kg
Swimming: Men’s 400m individual medley
Swimming: Men’s 400m freestyle
Swimming: Women’s 400m individual medley
Swimming: Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay

The U.S. has a great shot at silver or bronze medals in some of these events. The men’s archery team took silver at the 2012 Olympics and fourth at the 2015 World Championships. In swimming, Chase Kalisz and Maya DiRado captured world championships bronze and silver medals in the 400m IMs last year, and the women’s 4x100m free relay has always made the podium (Australia is a heavy favorite though).

If the U.S. does not earn gold on Aug. 6, it will snap a streak of 20 straight days that it has made the top of a Summer Olympic podium dating to the 2008 Beijing Games.

The U.S. was all but assured a gold medal on the first day of the Olympics in 2004 and 2012 in the men’s 400m individual medley, with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, respectively. Neither are swimming it this year.

In 2008, fencer Mariel Zagunis led a U.S. sweep of the women’s sabre on the first day in Beijing. In 2000, U.S. shooter Nancy Johnson took gold in the first medal event of the Sydney Games.

On Day 2 in Rio, the U.S. is almost surely going to take gold.

There are 14 finals on Sunday, Aug. 7, in somewhat chronological order:

Shooting: Women’s air pistol
Shooting: Women’s trap
Cycling: Women’s road race
Diving: Women’s synchronized springboard
Weightlifting: Women’s 53kg
Judo: Women’s 52kg
Judo: Men’s 52kg
Archery: Women’s team
Fencing: Men’s foil
Weightlifting: Men’s 56kg
Swimming: Women’s 100m butterfly
Swimming: Men’s 100m breaststroke
Swimming: Women’s 400m freestyle
Swimming: Men’s 4x100m freestyle relay

One could argue the U.S. is a gold-medal favorite in one of these events — the women’s 400m freestyle. Katie Ledecky is the two-time reigning world champion, world-record holder and the fastest woman in the world this year by 1.67 seconds. The second-fastest woman this year is another American, Leah Smith, so it would be shocking if the U.S. does not finish the first weekend of the Olympics with at least one gold medal.

MORE: Complete U.S. Olympic team roster