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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At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

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While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

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A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

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