Kohei Uchimura

Kohei Uchimura, greatest ever after 5th World Championship?

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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.

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Brian Orser reveals Hanyu’s, Medvedeva’s, and Brown’s Grand Prix plans

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Over the past decade, the Toronto club where Brian Orser coached South Korea’s Yuna Kim to the 2010 Olympic title has become such an attraction for top figure skaters from around the globe that it could add a word to a name that already is a mouthful.

You could call it the Toronto International Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

But its reach now is limited by the deadly virus pandemic that has effectively frozen out the elite athletes from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Poland who train at the Cricket Club.

That situation won’t change quickly, even with the International Skating Union having announced Monday its plans to proceed with a live format for the international Grand Prix Series. This fall, it will become a series of six essentially domestic competitions scheduled to begin with Skate America Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas.

If they take place.

“As soon as the skaters can come back, it will be full steam ahead… to where, we don’t know,” Orser said via telephone Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains in Japan. Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is in Russia, four-time national champion Cha Jun-Hwan in South Korea, and two-time national champion Yekaterina Kurakova in Poland.

“We would like for them all to come back, but with the Canadian travel restrictions in place until at least Aug. 21, we can’t guarantee approval to get them in, and they would have a 14-day quarantine here if they do get in,” Tracy Wilson, who coaches with Orser, said via telephone Wednesday. “Right now, they are all training at home, and that’s OK.

“The situation is different for each one. The Japanese federation may need Yuzu to do the Grand Prix in Japan, and at this point he would face quarantine entering Canada and returning to Japan.

“For Yevgenia, as soon as she does the Russian test skates (scheduled for early September), we will re-evaluate her situation.”

Orser said he has been doing three video coaching sessions a week with Medvedeva, with whom he is in his third season as coach. Medvedeva, who left Russia for Canada after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, also is currently getting help from coach Elena Buyanova at the CSKA rink in Moscow.

“She (Medvedeva) looks way ahead of where she was at this point last year,” Orser said.

MORE: Looking back at Yuna Kim’s 10-year gold medal anniversary

Orser also has been having live remote sessions with Cha and Kurakova, and they are also sending videos to him. The only skater he has not seen is Hanyu.

“That’s normal when he is back in Japan,” Orser said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

How long Hanyu stays in Japan may depend on travel restrictions being loosened in both his homeland and Canada.

“I would like to get them all back, and they need to come back,” Orser said. “But facing a double quarantine is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Only two of the Cricket Club’s international skaters, 2014 Olympian Jason Brown of suburban Chicago and Yi Zhu of Los Angeles (who represents China), have come back to Toronto after leaving in late winter.

It took Brown two tries to get back across the border because of issues with the paperwork necessary for Canada to consider it essential he be allowed to enter. Orser and Wilson want to be sure any skaters coming from Asia and Europe are admitted on the first try.

From April to July, until skaters could get back on the ice in their various homelands, Brown led Thursday off-ice fitness classes via Zoom, with Medvedeva, Cha and Kurakova taking part.

“It was such a fun way to stay connected and still ‘train’ together while we were oceans apart,” Brown said in a Wednesday text message.

Orser and Wilson will recommend that all the foreign skaters training at the Cricket Club try to compete at Skate Canada, scheduled the last weekend of October at a 9,500-seat arena in Ottawa. Wilson thought if the event cannot have spectators, it might be moved to a smaller facility, possibly in a different city.

“All plans are in the early stages,” Skate Canada spokesperson Emma Bowie said in an email.

Grand Prix assignments have not yet been made.

Whether Brown picks Skate Canada over Skate America – if he gets a choice – could depend on when (and if) the Canadian government shortens quarantine periods for travelers from the United States.

“I know that we are in such unprecedented and uncertain times, so I love seeing the ISU being creative and trying to find a way to hold skating events this year,” Brown wrote. “While a lot can happen before October, if it’s safe to do so, I’ll be ready and eager to take part in any events that I can.”

The ISU said it wants to have the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, whether it takes place on its original dates (Dec. 10-13) or early in 2021. The competition is to be used as a test event of the skating venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There are no details yet on qualification for the final, which usually is determined by points for placements at the six “regular season” events of the series, held in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan. The top six in each of the sport’s four disciplines make the Final.

In the past, the highest-ranked skaters could compete in up to two Grand Prix events, but ISU Vice-President Alexander Lakernik of Russia said in a Tuesday email that everyone would be limited to one event this year.

Because the Final presumably would have much more of an international field than the six other events, staging it is infinitely more problematic because of travel involved.

“We want what’s best for the sport,” Wilson said. “We have to get these kids out there doing programs, to get them on TV. [Note: An NBC spokesman said the network would, as planned, provide coverage of the Grand Prix, with details forthcoming.] In terms of competition, we’re up for anything.

“For me, though, with all the restrictions, there is no way they will be able to run a fair qualification for the Grand Prix Final. You’ve got to reinvent yourself and make it something else – if you are able to have it at all.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Nathan Chen is surprised, grateful and posing questions about figure skating’s restart

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Steven Nyman, top U.S. downhiller, faces another obstacle

Steven Nyman
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Steven Nyman, the active U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins, tore his right Achilles in a training crash and had surgery earlier this week in Mt. Hood, Ore.

“I am moving forward,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “I’ve been through this before and have full intention to comeback [sic] and compete through the next Olympics.”

Nyman raced in three Olympics and owns three World Cup downhill victories.

He turns 40 during the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, when he will be three and a half years older than any previous U.S. Olympic Alpine skier.

Nyman missed the PyeongChang Olympics after a pair of major injuries: blowing out his left knee in a January 2017 downhill race crash and tearing his right ACL in downhill training in January 2018. He also tore his left Achilles in 2011.

He raced the last two seasons with a best World Cup finish of fifth in Val Gardena, Italy, site of all of his World Cup wins in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

The U.S. men’s program is in the midst of its longest World Cup downhill victory and podium droughts this millennium — none since Travis Ganong‘s win in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2017.

MORE: Alpine skiing World Cup plans earlier season start with fewer fans

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