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October 17, 2009

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Home » Sports » Gymnastics

Uchimura soars for all-around gold

JAPAN'S Kohei Uchimura dazzled on the floor, soared from the vault and displayed gravity-defying skills on the horizontal bar to win the all-around title at the world gymnastics championships in London on Thursday.

The silver medallist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics put in a near flawless performance on all six apparatus to scoop the top individual prize with a total of 91.500.

Daniel Keatings gave the sparse crowd plenty to cheer about as he won Britain's first ever all-around world medal when he picked up silver with 88.925.

Russia's Yuri Ryazanov was third.

While fans and rivals alike watched wide-eyed at Uchimura's acrobatic performances in the O2 Arena, the man himself was not impressed with his form. "Today's performance wasn't entirely up to my standards. I'm not entirely satisfied but I did my best throughout and that came through in the result," he told reporters.

The men's showpiece was expected to be a three-way battle between Uchimura, American Jonathan Horton and Russia's former European champion Maxim Deviatovski but while the others hit the self-destruct button, the Japanese kept his wits about him.

Ever since Olympic and world champion Yang Wei of China announced his retirement following last year's Beijing Games, Uchimura had been tipped as the Chinese athlete's heir apparent. On Thursday, he proved the crown was a perfect fit.

"Last year I didn't think I had a chance of winning a medal but after winning silver I was now aware of my position in the world and continuously worked hard being aware that a gold medal was reachable," Uchimura said.

The 20-year-old's victory meant Asian men had once again shut out the rest of the world at the championships as he followed in the footsteps of 2005 gold medallist Hiroyuki Tomita of Japan and Yang's double success in 2006 and 2007. Flying through the air as if aided by giant wings, Uchimura began his journey with a spell-binding exhibition on the floor. He ended his complex tumbling sequences with a soaring triple twist to draw 15.625 from the judges.

On the pommel horse, he made sure he avoided the drama that caused his downfall in Beijing.

Fourteen months ago he earned the dubious distinction of drawing the lowest score among the 24 finalists on that apparatus after falling off twice. That mishap had dropped him to 22nd in the standings before he produced a stirring comeback to grab the silver.

If his rivals were hoping for a repeat performance, they were left sorely disappointed.

He maintained his line throughout as he slickly rotated over the apparatus and then on the rings produced an amazing display of muscle power out of his 53kg frame to score 15.225.

He surpassed that performance on the vault with a 2-1/2 twisting Yurchenko to score 16.050 and from then on Uchimura knew he just had to hang on to the parallel and horizontal bars and the gold would be his. It proved to be his day.

While Uchimura will keep his fingers crossed that he will be able to replicate the feat when the O2 Arena hosts the gymnastics competition at the 2012 Olympics, Horton will not be in a rush to grab the DVD of his outing in London.

He sat down after one his tumbles on the floor, slipped off the pommel horse and suffered a crash landing from the horizontal bar. His woeful day ended with a 17th place finish.

Deviatovski paid the price for a botched landing from the vault to finish fifth.


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