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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Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

MORE: Dalilah Muhammad rewatches 2019 world records

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