Kohei Uchimura, Japanese gymnastics legend, qualifies for one last Olympics

Kohei Uchimura
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Kohei Uchimura, widely regarded as the greatest male gymnast in history, is going to a fourth and final Olympics, this time to focus on one event.

Uchimura, who won all eight Olympic and world all-around titles from 2009-16 and earned the nickname “King Kohei,” made Japan’s Olympic team in individual events only at a domestic competition on Sunday.

He qualified via tiebreaker. Uchimura, competing on high bar, and another gymnast, Hidenobu Yonekura, who was on vault, tied on qualifying points, but Uchimura got in via higher world ranking, according to Tokyo 2020.

“I thought I failed to qualify but then was told I’m going. I don’t think I deserve it,” Uchimura said, according to a Tokyo 2020 translation. “I apologized to Yonekura afterwards.”

Uchimura will not compete in the team event at an Olympics for the first time in his career.

He is eligible to go for the individual all-around, but he has said his focus is on high bar after fighting injuries throughout this Olympic cycle and missing the world championships in 2019 for the first time since 2007.

At 32, Uchimura will be the oldest Japanese Olympic gymnast since the other time the Games were held in Tokyo in 1964, according to Olympedia.org.

“I don’t feel that after today’s performance, I really deserve to be called ‘King,'” Uchimura said Sunday, according to a Reuters translation.

Russians Nikita Nagornyy and Artur Dalaloyan won the last two world all-around titles.

The Japanese roster for the Olympic men’s team event — one of the most coveted gold medals for the host nation — is Daiki Hashimoto, Kazuma Kaya, Wataru Tanigawa and Takeru Kitazono, all Olympic rookies.

Japan took team bronze at the last two world championships behind Russia and China.

“It was really hard for me, as such an old man, to perform after the new generation,” Uchimura said, referring to his younger countrymen, according to Reuters. “I may not be part of the all-around team effort, but there’s still things I can contribute due to my experience.”

Kenzo Shirai, the second star of Japan’s Rio Olympic champion team, did not make the roster for Tokyo. Shirai, 24, owns world titles on floor exercise and vault and was the last Japanese man to earn a world championships all-around medal, bronze in 2017. He has been hampered by back and ankle injuries, according to Japanese media.

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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