‘King Kohei’ aiming for seventh heaven at world championships

‘King Kohei’ aiming for seventh heaven at world championships

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MONTREAL, (BSS/AFP) – Japanese superstar Kohei Uchimura is on the threshold of a place in history as he eyes more gold medal glory at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships which get under way here Monday. The reigning 2012 and 2016 Olympic all-around champion is chasing a seventh straight world championship gold in the category as he takes the first steps on the long road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 28-year-old has already amassed a staggering 19 medals at the worlds since his first appearance at the championships in London in 2009, with 10 golds, five silvers and four bronze. Two more gold medals in Montreal this week would see Uchimura draw level with the legendary Vitaly Scherbo, the Belarussian who has 23 world championship medals including 12 golds. Uchimura, who once again will come up against Ukraine’s Rio 2016 all-around silver medallist Oleg Verniaiev, said he has set himself a lofty target for this week’s championships, which begin with qualifying on Monday. “I have no particular objectives when it comes to results,” Uchimura said. “But as I’ve never had the feeling that my performances were perfect at the six World Championships I’ve done in the past, my principal objective is to give perfect performances,” he said in comments on the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) website.  “If I manage that, the results should follow. I want to do my best, particularly to obtain medals on the events I qualify for.”
– Feeling his age –
Three days of qualification rounds get under way on Monday, with the first medals up for grabs on Thursday where Uchimura will attempt to defend his individual all-around title. Uchimura, who beat Ukraine’s Verniaiev by just 0.099 points to win all-around gold in Rio last year, admitted he is finding it more challenging to arrive at each championships in peak form as he gets older. “When I participated at the World Championships for the first time, I was 20 years old, and now I’m 28 now and at my seventh Worlds. So the question of age is a new element,” he said. “With age, one loses some muscle tone and also makes mistakes in complicated routines. Maintaining strength and muscle tone requires a completely different kind of preparation beforehand.” While Uchimura is preparing to defend his title, the women’s field looks more open after the decision of reigning Olympic and world champion Simone Biles to take a sabbatical from the sport. Biles, a four-time gold medallist at the Olympics last year and winner of 10 world championship golds, including the all-around title in 2013, 2014, and 2015, has not trained at all this year but is looking at a competitive return in 2018.  With Biles absent, American medal hopes in the women’s competition rest with 17-year-old Ragan Smith. Another challenger for the all-around title could be Romania’s Larisa Iordache. Elsewhere this week, the incredible Uzbekistan veteran Oksana Chusovitina, 42, will be among the competitors in the women’s events — 26 years after her first appearance in a world championships. The women’s individual all-round title takes place on Friday with the men’s and women’s apparatus finals decided on Saturday and Sunday. There is no team event at the world championships in the year following an Olympics.

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