Kohei Uchimura

Kohei Uchimura inspired by Olympic track and field legend, picks best gymnast of all time

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The world’s greatest gymnast, and perhaps the best of all time, gave a rare detailed interview with the BBC, discussing sports legends and his future, among other topics.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura became the first gymnast — man or woman — to win four world all-around championships in Antwerp, Belgium, last week. Uchimura, 24, has won every world and Olympic all-around title since 2009.

It’s a run of dominance matched by few, if any, athletes in any sport across the world. Uchimura said he was inspired by another man who is in the middle of a dominating run.

“Usain Bolt,” Uchimura said with an interpreter on hand. “He comes across all cool and says, ‘I am going to be a legend,’ and then he goes out and actually does it. I really admire that.”

Asked if Uchimura thought of himself as a legend, he laughed.

“I can’t say that myself!” he told the BBC.

Uchimura’s place in gymnastics history is debatable. Sure, he is the greatest of his generation. But all time? There are other contenders. Uchimura is a student of the sport. Asked who the best of all time is, he answered 1990s Belarusian great Vitaly Scherbo. Scherbo is the only gymnast to win six gold medals at a single Games, doing so at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics for the Unified Team.

Scherbo owns 10 career Olympic medals and 23 career World Championship medals. Uchimura is well behind with five Olympic medals and 13 worlds medals.

“To win six gold medals at a single Games is something that just isn’t normally possible, regardless of how the rules may have changed in the meantime,” Uchimura said. “To complete each individual event so perfectly could not have been possible without a huge amount of training and really strong mental, psychological control.”

Uchimura also reflected on Japan’s team silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. He almost cost his team a spot on the podium with a clumsy dismount of the final event, pommel horse. A video review and a .7 of a point scoring bump saved Japan from a fourth-place failure.

“At the time, I had spent my entire career striving for gold medals and so my first reaction was that it didn’t really make much difference whether we ended up second or fourth,” he told the BBC. “However, when I thought about it properly, we had all worked so hard to get there and I felt very sorry that I had reacted that way. If my mistake had cost everyone else their medals, that responsibility would have weighed on very heavily.”

Uchimura said a team gold medal at the 2016 Olympics is his next goal. Japan has won silver at his two Olympic appearances in 2008 and 2012 after taking gold without him in 2004.

He has also said he wants to compete through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, when he will be 31.

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Jan Frodeno eyes unprecedented Olympic-Ironman double (video)

Jan Frodeno
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On Saturday, Jan Frodeno will attempt to become the first triathlete to win an Olympic title and an Ironman World Championship.

The German 2008 Olympic champion finished third in his debut at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, one year ago. So he’s already in a class of his own, the only triathlete to win Olympic gold and finish on the podium in Kailua-Kona.

On Saturday, Frodeno will go up against defending champion and countryman Sebastian Kienle and the 2013 winner, Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium.

Frodeno is arguably the favorite, given he trounced Kienle by nearly 12 minutes and Van Lierde by nearly 18 minutes in triple-digit heat at the Ironman European Championships on July 5 in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Ironman triathlon includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon. It took Frodeno 8 hours, 20 minutes, 32 seconds to complete in 2014. Apolo Ohno, the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian of all time, also completed the 2014 Ironman World Championships in an impressive time.

The Olympic triathlon includes a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run. It took Frodeno 1 hour, 48 minutes, 53 seconds to complete in 2008.

On the women’s side, Australian Mirinda Carfrae is going for her third straight title in Kailua-Kona. Carfrae’s marathon time in 2013 (2:50:38) was the third fastest of the day, among women and men. Her marathon time in 2014 (2:50:26) was the fifth fastest of the day, among women and men.

VIDEO: Watch Apolo Ohno’s Ironman feature

Victor Oladipo may play for Nigeria at Rio Olympics

Victor Oladipo
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Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo, who scrimmaged in a Team USA jersey in August, may want to play for Nigeria at the Rio Olympics, should he not be chosen for the U.S. team next summer, according to NBA.com.

The Maryland-born Oladipo’s parents are Nigerian.

“Playing in the Olympics is definitely a dream, but I’ll worry about it when the time comes,” Oladipo said, according to the website. “Whatever [Olympic] opportunity appears on the table, it will be about making the right decision that’s best for me.”

Oladipo, 23, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Indiana and scored 17.9 points per game last season.

In August, he was one of 34 players named on a USA Basketball roster for a camp deemed mandatory for Olympic participation.

But he hasn’t played in major international competition for the U.S., so he is eligible to switch to Nigeria, according to USA Basketball.

The final U.S. Olympic team may not be chosen until late June — a little more than one month before the Olympics — and will include 12 players, and the competition to be one of four or five guards is deep. London Olympians James HardenChris Paul and Russell Westbrook were on the camp roster, as were 2014 FIBA World Cup guards Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, plus John Wall.

In 2014, Oladipo said playing on the U.S. Olympic team was a lifelong dream and that he realistically hoped to make it for the 2020 Olympics, according to NBA.com.

“Isn’t that every little kid’s dream? For me to be a part of that team, it would be a blessing,” Oladipo said, according to the website. “That’s something that I have added to my goals list, and I want to keep working and getting better.”

Both the U.S. and Nigeria are already qualified for the Olympic men’s basketball tournament, along with seven other teams.

Nigeria won the African Olympic qualifying tournament in August, led by 2012 Olympian Al-Farouq Aminu, an Atlanta-born Portland Trail Blazers forward who also has Nigerian parents.

African nations have lost 25 straight Olympic men’s basketball games to non-African nations, the last win coming by Angola over South Korea in the 11th-place game at Atlanta 1996.

For 2012, Tunisia won the African qualifying tournament for the London Olympics, while Nigeria was the last of 12 nations into the Olympic tournament by placing third in a global, last-chance qualifying tournament.

In London, Nigeria beat Tunisia 60-56 in the first game of the Olympic tournament. Nigeria went on to lose to the U.S. 156-73 in group play, marking the biggest U.S. men’s margin of victory in Olympic history.

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