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

Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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