Kohei Uchimura rolls to sixth straight World all-around title over surprise runner-up

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Kohei Uchimura fell in qualifying. He crashed to the mat in the team final. But in the all-around, the competition he owns, Uchimura stayed on his feet and in a class by himself.

The Japanese icon extended his record with a sixth straight dominant World all-around title in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday. No other gymnast — man or woman — has won more than three titles.

Does Uchimura believe he is the greatest of all time?

“Uchimura doesn’t consider himself to be the best gymnast in the world, even though he win a lot of medals in the World Championships,” he said through a translator.

Uchimura prevailed by a comfortable 1.634 points over Manrique Larduet, whose silver medal matched the best finish for a Cuban in any Olympic or World Championships gymnastics event. A Cuban gymnast had not competed at an Olympics or Worlds since 2004.

Larduet, the 19-year-old Pan American Games silver medalist in his Worlds debut, also became the youngest men’s World all-around medalist since Fabian Hambuechen in 2006.

“It has been a dream of mine ever since I was little,” said Larduet, who listened to Lil Wayne between routines. “I also want to be the first Cuban gymnast with an Olympic medal, and I’m going to start working on that right now.”

China’s Deng Shudi earned bronze.

Americans Donnell Whittenburg and Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva were eighth and 17th in the 24-man field. Whittenburg was 31st in qualifying and didn’t make the final until another gymnast withdrew earlier Friday. Leyva fell on floor exercise and high bar and nearly fell off pommel horse.

Uchimura’s closest margin of victory among his other five World titles and his 2012 Olympic title was 1.492 points over Great Britain’s Max Whitlock last year.

Whitlock began with a 16.1 on pommel horse Friday, the highest score on the event at an Olympics or Worlds since 2009, but fell off high bar in the fifth rotation and out of the medals. He was fifth.

Uchimura showed no clear mistakes with nothing more than small hops on landings on his first five events, an improvement after he fell on floor exercise in qualifying Sunday and on high bar in the team final Wednesday.

His biggest mistake was a slightly clumsy release move on high bar on his last routine. Still, he walked off the mat raising his arms to the crowd.

He expressed satisfaction with post-routine fist pumps and broke into a grin after his penultimate exercise, a 15.833 on parallel bars, his best score of the night that all but sealed gold.

Uchimura now owns 18 World Championships medals, including nine golds. Belarus’ Vitaly Scherbo, whom Uchimura has called the greatest of all time, won 23 Worlds medals, including 12 golds. Scherbo, who won six gold medals at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics, also owns twice as many Olympic medals as Uchimura — 10 to five.

Scherbo, who runs a gym in Las Vegas, weighed in on Uchimura in April.

The World Championships continue with apparatus finals Saturday and Sunday, featuring Simone BilesGabby Douglas and Uchimura.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air World Championships coverage Saturday from 2:30-4 p.m. ET and Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET, with Al Trautwig and Olympic champions Tim Daggett and Nastia Liukin.

NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report from Glasgow.

MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule

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Kohei Uchimura
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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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