Vitaly Scherbo

Vitaly Scherbo weighs in on Kohei Uchimura

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Kohei Uchimura, the five-time reigning World all-around champion, has been asked who is the greatest gymnast in history.

In 2011 and 2013 at least, he answered with Vitaly Scherbo. The Belarusian Scherbo is the only gymnast to win six gold medals at a single Olympics, doing so with the Unified Team at Barcelona 1992.

Scherbo owns 10 career Olympic medals and 23 World Championships medals. Uchimura is well behind with five Olympic medals and 16 Worlds medals.

Scherbo, who moved to Las Vegas in 1997 and opened a gym there in 1998, said in a phone interview Monday that he’s never met Uchimura. But he has watched the growing Japanese legend on TV.

“What I’ve seen on videos for him, first of all with the difficulty of gymnastics right now, and the difficult skills and being a specialist on one or two events a normal practice in the world, but to be the all-around leader for the past three, four years, winning all the competitions, especially the big ones, and winning by the large number, it already shows and says enough,” said Scherbo, who is now 43 years old with two daughters (Kristina, 22, and Victoria, 5). “So there is not only my opinion, I would say the opinion of the whole world that the all-arounder who wins everything the last four years, including World Championships and Olympics, you have to be considered one of the greatest gymnasts.

“To become one of greatest gymnasts of all time, you have to have a little bit more achievements and medals. As of right now, I don’t see anybody close to him, especially with the large margin of victory in competition (more detail on that here), and how flawlessly he’s doing them. With his difficulty right now, his all-around goes so flawless and without faults. It is very, very hard to do. That’s already very impressive. The difficulty of his routines is top-notch. I would tell you that, yes, he is one of the best for sure. I don’t think it will be anyone who’s going to become closer to him.”

Uchimura, 26, could very well catch Scherbo in medal totals. He has said he plans to compete through the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At Rio 2016, Uchimura will likely try to become the first man to repeat as Olympic all-around champion since 1972. Scherbo failed in his bid in 1996, taking bronze.

Scherbo said Uchimura is competing in a tougher era now than in 1992 to scoop a handful of medals at one global meet.

There are now more elite gymnasts who specialize in one or two events from more nations than Scherbo had to deal with in his prime.

“It’s almost impossible,” to win six gold medals at an Olympics now, Scherbo said. “For [Uchimura], winning the all-around and probably get some medal with the team competition and placing in a couple events silver or bronze, maybe one gold, that’s maximum you can get.”

In 2011, Uchimura said, “My goal, indeed, is to perform in a way more beautiful than Scherbo’s routines,” according to Agence France-Presse.

In 2013, Uchimura said of Scherbo to the BBC, “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. To complete each individual event so perfectly could not have been possible without a huge amount of training and really strong mental, psychological control.”

Scherbo said Monday that he’s read Uchimura’s comments.

“Thank you very much, what else I can say?” Scherbo said. “It’s really nice of him not to show the cockiness like usual stars are doing. That was pretty nice of him. I appreciate his thought. Of course, every time they have their own heroes. Gymnasts have their own heroes. This last decade, that’s him.”

Scherbo said he has not been to an Olympics since he last competed at Atlanta 1996. He said he didn’t have the time to leave his gym, the young athletes he coached and his family in Las Vegas for two or three weeks in the summer.

But Scherbo hopes to return to the Olympics for the first time in 20 years in 2016, as a coach. One of his pupils is former U.S. gymnast Fabian DeLuna, who placed second at the Mexican National Championships earlier this month. Scherbo said DeLuna is to compete at the World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in October for Mexico.

Scherbo misses the atmosphere of big-time gymnastics.

“My old friends,” Scherbo said. “The air inside the arena and the fights, in a good way, between the competitors up there. The scoring and sweating and shaking up. Of course, I miss that. I haven’t been there for a long, long time.”

A recent history of U.S. Olympic gymnastics comebacks

USA Gymnastics closes Karolyi Ranch

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USA Gymnastics said it will no longer use the Karolyi Ranch in Texas as its training center, where athletes said Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts.

“USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas,” USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a press release Thursday. “It will no longer serve as the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December. Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.

“We have cancelled next week’s training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team. We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined. We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”

MORE: Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

World champions Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols said that Nassar sexually abused gymnasts at the ranch.

“When I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch,” Nichols wrote in a victim impact statement read at one of Nassar’s sentencing hearings on Wednesday and published last week. “This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

“I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

“He did this ‘treatment’ on me, on numerous occasions.”

Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, urged USA Gymnastics to close the ranch in a Tuesday interview on ESPN.

“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far,” she said. “I hope they listen, and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after, you know, so many of us were abused there.”

Simone Biles did not specifically name the Karolyi Ranch in her Monday statement, but Raisman said Tuesday that Biles was referring to that site.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing at Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” was posted on Biles’ social media.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympian, said Nassar was alone with her in her bed at the ranch.

“There was no one else sent with him,” she said on CBS last year. “The treatment was in the bed, in my bed that I slept on at the ranch.”

USA Gymnastics said in July 2016 that it reached an agreement with former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi to purchase the training facility the couple owned.

The national governing body backed out of the purchase in May “for a variety of reasons” but continued under its current lease agreement while exploring alternative locations for camps. It held national team camps there in September and November.

The Karolyis established the ranch in 1983 after defecting from Romania. It had been a national team training center since 2001.

Larry Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A statement from McKayla Maroney read Thursday repeated that sexual assault by Larry Nassar “left scars” in her mind that may never fade as a judge heard a third day of testimony from victims.

Nassar could be sentenced Friday in Lansing. Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has been listening to dozens of young women who were molested after seeking his help for injuries.

Aquilina started the hearing Thursday by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn’t strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. He called the hearing “a media circus.”

The judge dismissed it as “mumbo jumbo.”

“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.

Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls as a doctor for Michigan State University and at his home.

He also was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics for nearly two decades. He’s already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said in a statement read by a prosecutor (Maroney’s statement was previously posted in the fall). “He left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her “brave statements.”

A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness.”

“Your days of manipulation are over,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the power now.”

Nassar wasn’t the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.

“Guess what? You’re a coward, too,” current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.

The judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar.

It’s “about their control over other human beings and feeling like God and they can do anything,” Aquilina said of sex offenders.

On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.