Kohei Uchimura rolls to sixth straight World all-around title over surprise runner-up
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.
The World Championships continue with apparatus finals Saturday and Sunday, featuring Simone Biles, Gabby 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