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Uchimura Aims For Tokyo Olympics Despite Rio Injuries

Gymnastics is the kind of sport where the more years you compete, the more damage your body has to tolerate. For Kohei Uchimura who works harder for the team all-around titles than his own individual all-around title, the struggle is doubled. He’s been doing artistic gymnastics since he was 3, and now that he’s 28 tuning up his physical condition is getting tougher than when he was younger.

Uchimura, Japan’s king of the sport, showed breathtaking performances at last summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He has helped his five-man team to dethrone China on its comfortable seat at the Team All-Around gold title, stealing the title from its more than 8-year holder after settling for silvers behind China. Aside from beating China which fell third in the Team All-Around, the Japanese team has defeated Russia as well and placed it second.

Kohei Uchimura Rio Olympics

After that success Uchimura was already contented, but he also won his second Individual All-Around title after battling neck to neck with Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev, establishing once again his “King Kohei” title with a jaw-dropping high bar routine in the final rotation. He is the first male gymnast since Sawao Kato in 1968 and 1972 who won two consecutive Individual All-Around gold medals.

After Rio Olympics, Uchimura is officially recognized as the most successful gymnast with his six World All-Around titles for six consecutive years.

Despite all that success, however, Uchimura has sustained multiple injuries during the Games. He left Rio with his whole body banged up. His lower back and shoulders were seriously hurt, and he had a chronic ankle injury as well. That doesn’t stop him from training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, though, as it is still his current goal with the national championship on April as his first competition since Rio.

Last Friday, at a training camp for the men’s national team at Tokyo’s National Training Center, Uchimura was interviewed and he confirmed that his back has nearly healed, though the pain in his shoulders and ankles are still in the way of his training.

He said, “They’re gotten better, but they’re not completely cured yet. I guess I’ve got to compete and deal with the pain until the Tokyo Olympics.”

This is one of the reasons why a lot of people look up to Uchimura. He’s chosen to leave Konami Sports Club Co., Ltd., at the end of November so he could focus more on his sport. He’s really doing everything to do what he loves, artistic gymnastics, without distractions, not even his injuries.

Kenzo Shirai Rio

Following Uchimura’s footsteps is twenty-year-old rising phenom Kenzo Shirai, who was part of Japan’s Rio team as well. He has his sights set on becoming a top individual all-around gymnast like Uchimura, to which Uchimura calls him “Japan’s next ace.”

Shirai reportedly said that, “It’s important for me to get closer (to Uchimura), because you don’t really have to look around the world to see the best, you just watch Kohei. When you’re watching Kohei, you’re watching the world’s best.”

Uchimura appears to have achieved everything in his life, he has family, friends, he has people looking up to him and his country is proud of him. However, there is still one thing missing: a skill named after him. All of his team members in Rio have had skills named after them already, except Uchimura.

He expressed his desires by saying, “I’ve achieved as much as I have and I now want one (skill named after me). Hopefully, I can make it happen leading up to the Tokyo Olympics.”

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