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

Kohei Uchimura
Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
Getty
0 Comments

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
Getty
0 Comments

British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!