Kohei Uchimura

Kohei Uchimura, greatest ever after 5th World Championship?

Leave a comment

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura won his fifth straight World all-around title in Nanning, China, on Thursday, adding to a trophy case that rivals and perhaps trumps the greatest gymnasts of all time.

Uchimura, also the 2012 Olympic all-around champion, was the only gymnast to score at least 15 points on all six apparatuses for the fourth straight Worlds. He totaled 91.965 points. He is the only male or female gymnast to win more than three World all-around titles.

“I have never thought the competition is getting any easier,” Uchimura said. “The competition is simply a reflection of my daily training, so I think that what I am trying to do is consider how I can put my best training results into my competition performances in a perfect manner.”

Great Britain’s Max Whitlock won silver, 1.492 behind. Whitlock didn’t originally qualify for the all-around final but got in the field when another British gymnast pulled out.

Japan’s Yusuke Tanaka won bronze. Uchimura has shared the World all-around podium with a different teammate each of the last three Worlds.

Americans Sam Mikulak and Donnell Whittenburg were 12th and 17th, respectively.

Mikulak fell on parallel bars and was out of bounds on his vault. The London Olympian and two-time P&G Championships all-around winner was second in all-around qualifying in 2013 and in position for a medal going into the final rotation last year before a high bar mistake.

The Worlds rookie Whittenburg, who was fourth in qualifying in Nanning, put his hands down and was off the mat on his vault landing and had problems on pommel horse.

“I had a rough night, but it’s just great to be out here with all of the best guys in the world,” Whittenburg said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “It definitely was an eye opener of what possibilities I can achieve for myself and what I have to look forward to.”

It’s the first time a U.S. man hasn’t finished in the top 10 in a Worlds or Olympic all-around since 2006.

Back to Uchimura. We wrote this perspective last year, but it’s worth mentioning again:

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.

In 2014, Uchimura won by 1.492 points — the margin separating second place from seventh place.

Whitlock said it was “an absolute honor” to finish second to Uchimura.

“Kohei is quite over our head at the moment as you saw by the scores today,” he said.

Russia’s David Belyavskiy finished fifth on Thursday and was asked what it will take to beat Uchimura.

“As yet we do not have an answer to that question,” he said. “If we knew how to do it we would to it.”

Uchimura is 25 years old. The three Olympic all-around champions in 2000, 2004 and 2008, before Uchimura began his reign, were 24, 21 and 28 years old. Uchimura would be right in the middle of his prime, based off those statistics.

Many say Uchimura is already the greatest gymnast of all time.

“Compared with the title, the best gymnast in the world, what I’m care about is that I can deliver a good performance to win the championship that convinced all the people, including myself,” Uchimura said. “That would be the happiest thing for me.”

Uchimura said last year that Belarus’ Vitaly Scherbo is the greatest.

Scherbo is the only gymnast to win six gold medals at a single Olympics, doing so at the 1992 Barcelona Games 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 15 Worlds medals.

Uchimura can chip away and pass Scherbo, though, given he has said he wants to compete through the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. One thing Scherbo could not accomplish was to win multiple Olympic all-around titles, which no man has done since 1972. Uchimura clearly looks like a favorite to successfully defend his London 2012 title in Rio in two years.

Uchimura has one event left in Nanning, the high bar final Sunday.

The World Gymnastics Championships continue with the women’s all-around final Friday (full schedule here). American Simone Biles is a heavy favorite to become the first woman to win back-to-back World titles since Svetlana Khorkina in 2001 and 2003.

Photos: Sochi Olympic Park ready for Formula One race

Rafael Nadal wins Australian Open first round; Maria Sharapova exits

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal says he’s thinking about his next opponent … and his next practice session … and trying to recreate the superb tennis he played in his straight-set victory in the Australian Open’s first round.

What he insists is not on his mind is the number 20 — as in Roger Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, which Nadal would equal by claiming the trophy at Melbourne Park.

“I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about (trying) to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career. It’s not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic,” Nadal said Tuesday, raising his hands in the air. “If I reach 21, better. If I (stay at) 19? Super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career, no?”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

He must have been pleased with the way his 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien went.

That was built with a 38-15 edge in winners and breaks in eight of Dellien’s 11 service games.

Nadal, at age 33 the oldest No. 1 in ATP history, owns 19 major championships, but only one came in Australia, 11 years ago.

Twelve, of course, were collected at the French Open, four at the U.S. Open and two at Wimbledon.

“I won the U.S. Open a few months ago, and I was super happy in that moment. But today I’m happier than if I didn’t win the U.S. Open? Probably not,” Nadal said with a hearty laugh. “The only thing I can do is put all my efforts on (trying) to keep going the best way possible. The rest of the things, the future will see.”

Wednesday’s second-round slate includes Serena WilliamsCoco GauffAsh BartyRoger Federer and Novak Djokovic in action.

In other Tuesday matches, former No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova’s run of first-round exits at the majors continued with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19th-seeded Donna Vekic.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam title winner, was given a wild card for the main draw at Melbourne Park after her year-end ranking slipped to 136 in 2019 after a season interrupted by injuries. Her ranking falls outside the top 300 now.

The 2008 Australian Open winner reached the fourth round here last year, missed the French Open and then lost in the first rounds at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

A few young Americans were also eliminated Tuesday.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, seeded fourth after his U.S. Open runner-up, took out 2019 Australian Open quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Fast-rising teenager Amanda Anisimova played her first Grand Slam match since her father, who also coached her, died last year. His sudden passing came just before the U.S. Open, so she withdrew from that tournament.

Anisimova reached the semifinals of the French Open in 2019 at age 17, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to get that far at a major. She was ranked 51st at the time and unseeded.

Now 18, she was seeded 21st at Melbourne Park, but was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 by Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

Credit Fabio Fognini with a career Grand Slam of comebacks: His 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) rain-interrupted victory across two days against Reilly Opelka of the U.S. gave the 12th-seeded Italian a total of eight wins in matches after dropping the opening two sets.

And now that he’s done it at the Australian Open, Fognini has a full collection, with at least one such reversal at each of the four major tournaments. According to the International Tennis Federation, only 11 other men have done it at each Slam, a group that includes Federer, Rod Laver and Boris Becker, but not Nadal or Novak Djokovic.

The most famous example of an 0-2 comeback by Fognini came against Nadal at the 2015 U.S. Open. Fognini said he doesn’t recall all of his turnaround victories, but he sure does remember that one.

So does Opelka, who rued the fact that play was halted against Fognini because of showers Monday after the initial game of the third set.

Opelka said that Nadal match wasn’t really on his mind, but “if anything, it was just more to have me prep to expect (Fognini) to want to win and believe in himself that he can win. Clearly, he did.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime is considered a future star of men’s tennis, a 19-year-old from Canada who was seeded 20th at the Australian Open — and is already out after a first-round loss against Ernests Gulbis, who once was a young up-and-comer himself.

Back when he was in his 20s, Gulbis reached the French Open semifinals and earned a spot in the top 10 of the ATP rankings. A series of injuries waylaid his career, including a back problem in 2019; he entered Tuesday ranked only 256th and needed to go through qualifying just to get into the main draw.

Made the most of it, though, beating Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

“We saw the good Gulbis today,” Auger-Aliassime said.

The 31-year-old Gulbis, who is from Latvia, described himself as “emotional when I was walking back to the locker room, because it’s not easy. Its not easy to come back. It’s not easy to play Challengers. But these moments are really worth it.”

MORE: Top U.S. male tennis player to skip Tokyo Olympics

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

Leave a comment

On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Japanese athlete’s bid to become oldest Olympian in history still alive