Kohei Uchimura

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Kohei Uchimura again bit by injury: ‘Everything is painful’

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Kohei Uchimura, the most decorated male all-around gymnast in history and one of Japan’s biggest stars heading into the Tokyo Olympics, is again in pain going into next week’s national championships.

“My body doesn’t move the way I’d hoped it would at this point,” Uchimura said Thursday, according to an Olympic Channel translation of a Sankei Sports report. “It’s not only the shoulders, but everything from the neck down is painful.”

Uchimura, a 30-year-old with two Olympic all-around titles and a record six world all-around crowns, hasn’t competed in a major all-around since the Rio Games due to injuries.

In 2017, he tore a left ankle ligament on a vault landing during world championships qualifying, which ended his streak as global all-around winner at eight years and reportedly kept him from walking for about a month.

Then in September, he suffered right ankle ligament damage in training. That limited him to four events at worlds, passing on vault and floor exercise, the leg-based apparatuses. He came home with a high bar silver and team bronze, Japan’s worst finish since 2006.

Uchimura said going into Rio that he planned to scale back his training and perhaps not compete in the all-around at the Tokyo Olympics, which would be his fourth and likely final Games. He will be older than any Japanese Olympic gymnast since 1968.

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Sam Mikulak earns first individual world championships medal

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Sam Mikulak had to wait until the very last routine of the world championships, but it had to be worth it. He’s finally an individual medalist.

The two-time Olympian and five-time U.S. all-around champion earned bronze on high bar in Doha, breaking through after four previous fourth-place finishes in Olympic or world finals. Including two this week and one earlier Saturday on parallel bars.

Mikulak will no longer be known as arguably the best gymnast in U.S. history without individual hardware.

“It’s a big weight off my chest,” he said. “It’s been such a emotional roller-coaster throughout this entire meet. … I can finally rest easy, go home and hang out with [bull terrier] Marshall and [girlfriend] Mia.”

Flying Dutchman Epke Zonderland earned gold with 15.1 for his baffling release moves, adding to his Olympic and world titles from 2012, 2013 and 2014. Japan’s Kohei Uchimura took silver with 14.8, his 21st career world medal. Mikulak snagged bronze with 14.533, just .033 ahead of 2017 World champ Tin Srbic of Croatia.

No man had a better meet than Russian Artur Dalaloyan, who became the first man to earn five medals at a worlds since Vitaly Scherbo in 1991.

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It had been a difficult week for Mikulak. The 26-year-old took perhaps the hardest defeat of his career on Wednesday, when he erred on high bar on the last rotation of the all-around final. He entered that routine in third place and would have earned at least bronze with a hit.

After, the normally California cool Mikulak said he was “pissed” and that he would either “go home dying, or I’m going to get a medal.”

He had four more chances in apparatus finals Friday and Saturday but finished seventh on floor exercise and fourth on pommel horse and parallel bars. However, high bar is Mikulak’s best event, despite those mistakes in the all-around.

“Today was a lot of redemption from all-around finals, being able to prove that I can go out, rock a set under this kind of pressure,” he said. “All-around finals, I played a little bit of the conservative route, played it too safe. You can never play it safe in this sport. That’s how you get in trouble. Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go.”

Mikulak saved the U.S. men from going medal-less at an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2009, though the team finished fourth and Yul Moldauer was fourth on floor. Mikulak is the only active team member with Olympic experience.

“I feel like a veteran, finally, in this sport,” he said. “People have been saying I’m a veteran, but I think this is the first time I’ve proven I’m one of those.”

Also Saturday, North Korean Olympic champion Ri Se Gwang won vault for the third time at worlds.

Chinese Zou Jingyuan earned his second straight world title on parallel bars with a 16.433-point routine, topping Olympic champion Oleg Verniaiev‘s 15.591.

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Kohei Uchimura out of world championships all-around

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Kohei Uchimura will sit out the world championships all-around for a second straight year due to an ankle injury, according to Japanese media.

Uchimura, a two-time Olympic all-around champion and six-time world champ, suffered right ankle ligament damage on Sept. 25.

Uchimura was limited in pre-worlds training in Doha on Monday, sitting out floor exercise and vault, the two events that tax the legs the most, according to the Olympic Channel.

He is still eligible to compete in qualifying, the Oct. 29 team final and individual finals, but sitting out any of the six apparatuses in qualifying excludes him from the all-around.

“The most important thing is to win as a team,” Uchimura told Olympic Channel through a translator. “All I have to do is do all four other apparatus perfectly, without mistake.”

Uchimura said three weeks ago that the injury was not as serious as his left ankle ligament tear on a vault landing during all-around qualifying at the 2017 World Championships, which ended his streak as global all-around winner at eight years.

Uchimura, 29, said he could not walk for about a month after last year’s injury, but this time he was back on his feet two days later, according to Nikkan Sports.

China’s Xiao Ruoteng won the world all-around title in Uchimura’s absence last year and is expected to do the all-around in Doha in qualifying this week and the Oct. 31 final. China’s Lin Chaopan and Japanese Kenzo Shirai took silver and bronze last year. The top U.S. hope is two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak, a five-time U.S. all-around champion whose best world all-around finish was sixth in 2013.

Uchimura’s six world all-around titles are twice as many as any other man or woman. Simone Biles is expected to go for a record-breaking fourth women’s title in Doha.

“I still have two years to go until the Tokyo Olympics, so I shouldn’t compete [and put too much strain on myself] now,” Uchimura, who hasn’t committed to doing all six events at a fourth Olympics in 2020, said Monday, according to Kyodo News.

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