Kohei Uchimura
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Kohei Uchimura’s dominance in question in bid for sixth straight World title

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When Kohei Uchimura fell off high bar on the final routine of the men’s team final at the World Championships on Wednesday, during arguably the most pressure-filled moments of his career, it showed that the Japanese icon is, in fact, capable of major mistakes.

It brought to mind Uchimura’s failure on his last routine of the 2012 Olympic team final, when his flailing pommel horse dismount knocked Japan off the podium, before judges upped his score upon appeal to lift the Japanese to silver.

“Almost every time there has been a little pressure on the last event he has missed,” two-time U.S. Olympian Jonathan Horton tweeted.

Uchimura may be more beatable than at any point in the last six years heading into the World Championships men’s all-around final Friday. Put some pressure on him, and who knows what can happen.

The problem is, nobody has made Uchimura sweat since he took silver in the 2008 Olympic all-around, well behind China’s Yang Wei.

Uchimura captured every Olympic and World all-around title since, a six-year streak unmatched in gymnastics history. No other man or woman has won more than three World all-around titles.

Yet there’s reason to doubt Uchimura won’t dust the field in Glasgow, Scotland, as he has in the past.

Last year, Uchimura won his fifth straight World all-around title by 1.492 points. An easy victory, but not the blowouts of 2009 (2.575), 2010 (2.283) and 2011 (3.101). It was his smallest margin of victory among his six Olympic or World titles.

The statistical margin between Uchimura and the rest of the field lessened last year, but the mental gap remained.

Silver medalist Max Whitlock of Great Britain, after becoming the closest man to beating Uchimura since Yang at Beijing 2008, 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,” Whitlock reportedly said then.

Russia’s David Belyavskiy finished fifth in 2014 and was asked what it would take to beat Uchimura.

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

Uchimura qualified first into Friday’s final, as he had done at the previous five World Championships (Uchimura qualified ninth into the 2012 Olympic final).

The gap between Uchimura and the field in qualifying in Glasgow? Just .433 over runner-up Oleg Verniaiev, the European all-around champion from Ukraine.

“I don’t want to guess anything right now,” Verniaiev said after qualifying of facing Uchimura. “We’ll have to see on the day because in the final, we will both start from zero. I have a few plans for the final, but those plans also bring risks.”

In the team final Wednesday, Uchimura competed on all six events and scored 91.531 points, despite that fall on high bar, in leading Japan to its first World title since 1978.

Meanwhile, Whitlock, who at 22 is four years younger than Uchimura, also competed on all six events in the team final and scored 90.932, which was .599 behind Uchimura.

Whitlock counted zero falls in the team final and beat his 2014 World all-around final score by nearly half of a point. Uchimura counted a fall and scored about four tenths fewer than his 2014 World all-around final score.

So a sixth straight World all-around title appears to be Uchimura’s to lose, but the rest of the world is closer to finding the answer to beating the Japanese legend.

MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir retire from ice dance competition

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Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the most decorated Olympic figure skaters in history, announced their retirement late Tuesday. They’re done competing in ice dance, and their upcoming Canadian tour will be their last together.

“After 22 years, it feels like the right time to step away from the sport,” Virtue said in a video. “This is so personal and emotional for both of us. … We still can’t believe people care.”

“It just feels for us like it’s the right time to say goodbye while we’re still loving and enjoying the sport as much as we always have been,” Moir said. “This is my first selfie video, and I’m not going to cry. What a beautiful ride it’s been.”

The news was expected.

Virtue and Moir last competed in PyeongChang, earning golds in ice dance and the team event to bring their total to five medals (three golds) and break the record for most Olympic medals in the sport (buoyed by the addition of the team event in 2014).

“It definitely feels like [this is our last Olympics],” Moir said on TODAY in PyeongChang, hours after their ice dance gold. “If it is, this is a great way for us to go out. … It feels right. It feels like a good end.”

Virtue, 30, and Moir 32, teamed up in elementary school. Moir, a childhood hockey player, followed brother Danny into dance, pairing with his first partner at 8 and then with Virtue and 9.

Virtue hit the ice at age 6 because she didn’t want to be the only one in her class who couldn’t skate during a field trip. When she was 7, she was paired with Moir through Moir’s aunt Carol, who coached both as singles skaters. Two years in, Virtue attended Canada’s National Ballet School for a summer before choosing to stick with skating.

That decision ultimately led to one of the greatest careers in Canadian sports history.

They earned a junior world title in 2006, the first of eight Canadian titles in 2008 and, in 2010, the biggest of all — home gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Virtue and Moir developed a rivalry with American training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with whom they traded world titles in the Sochi Olympic cycle. In Russia, the Americans edged the Canadians for the title by 4.53 points.

Moir waited until the arena emptied, returned to the rink and kissed the ice. Many thought it was a goodbye to the Olympics.

Two years later, they announced a comeback, saying they still had the fire and wanted to take advantage of one more chance to go to the Games. They won all but one of their competitions in those last two seasons, including the Olympics by a slim .79 of a point over French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Now they join the other Canadian champions of their generation — Patrick ChanKaetlyn Osmond and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford — in leaving the competitive arena for good.

“We spent 22 years coasting around the outside of the rink, hanging out together, making programs, trying to just soak up our sporting experiences,” Virtue said. “We still can’t believe people care.”

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MORE: Keegan Messing explains decision to hold up Japanese flag

Keegan Messing ‘glad’ to have held Japanese flag for Yuzuru Hanyu

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Yuzuru Hanyu heard Japan’s national anthem at the medal ceremony for his season-debut event on Saturday. But didn’t see a flag.

That’s when the bronze medalist, Keegan Messing of Canada, “took initiative” and unfurled the Japanese flag so Hanyu could honor it at the Autumn Classic in Ontario.

While there were plenty of fans of the Japanese skater in the crowd holding their own flags, none were hoisted above the ice like in some competitions.

Messing took it upon himself to hold up the Japanese flag that was hanging from a flagpole behind the medal podium.

Messing explained his decision following the interaction:

That was just actually instinct, honestly. When they said that we’re gonna play the anthem for the winner, I looked out and I realized there was no flag ready. A couple of the spectators had a flag but so I decided to hold up a flag because if I were in that place, I would’ve liked to have a flag presented at that time. That’s why I did it. I felt like that’s what I would’ve wanted so I went ahead and took initiative and I did it. I’m very happy I did. It felt good to do. I’m glad.

Hanyu is next expected to compete on the Grand Prix circuit, again in Canada in October and at NHK Trophy in Japan in November.

Messing’s assignments are Skate America in October and Cup of China in November.

The next time Hanyu’s and Messing’s paths could cross is at December’s Grand Prix Final, should they both qualify.

MORE: Yuzuru Hanyu wins Autumn Classic

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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