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.
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.