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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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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