Posts Tagged ‘Kohei Uchimura’

2013 Worlds – Qualifying Rounds

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

It’s that time of year again! The World Championships have begun, and the best gymnastics from around the world is on display in Antwerp, Belgium. After watching the qualifying rounds, it is evident that the competitive field is so much stronger for the men than for the women in this post-Olympic year, and it’s just not the same without top contenders Viktoria Komova (RUS), Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS) and Diana Bulimar (ROU). But the show must go on!

As usual, one of the highlights was the All Around domination of Kohei Uchimura (JPN), 2.392 ahead of American Sam Mikulak. Uchimura managed to qualify to the finals on floor, parallel bars and high bar as well, the most of any male gymnast. He is looking to win his fourth consecutive World Championship, a record he surely deserves. I love rooting for the underdog, but I just can’t this time. With his exceptional technique, form and level of difficulty across all six events, King Kohei deserves to go down in the books as the undisputed best gymnast ever. On the women’s side, Simone Biles (USA) led the field by 0.935 and made it to all four apparatus finals! I am most impressed by her double double followed by a double layout half-out on floor.

Here are some of the most exciting and upsetting moments of prelims:

I really wanted Victoria Moors (CAN) to make it to the floor finals. She has great music, great dance, and a laid out double double! It’s a bummer she put her hands down. Fortunately she has another chance to have this tremendously difficult skill named after her during the All Around finals on Friday.

Zeng Siqi (CHN) was a breath of fresh air on the balance beam. Her routine began with an effortless press to handstand, and she was so solid on everything until a simple aerial cartwheel left her standing next to the apparatus. Add a point to her score, and she would have qualified in second place behind Larisa Iordache (ROU).

Wow! Kenzo Shirai (JPN) can really twist! Not only does he perform a Yurchenko triple twist on vault, but he finishes his floor routine with a quadruple twist…STUCK, for a 0.633 lead on this event.

I’m so disappointed that Japanese native Naoya Tsukahara just missed out on qualifying to the All Around. The son of legend Mitsuo Tsukahara is quickly becoming a legend himself, having won medals in the 1990s and 2000s including the 1999 World All Around Silver and the 2004 Olympic Team Gold. Now at age 36, he represents Australia.

Darn it! Too bad Sanne Wevers (NED) fell off the beam on her full-twisting backhandspring mount and later put her hands on the beam after an intricate pirouette sequence. She has completely mastered the pirouetting skills on this event, and I was keeping my fingers crossed that she would make the beam final. How about we have a look at her routine in Osijek a few weeks ago instead?!

Mai Murakami (JPN) will finally have the chance to showcase her exciting floor routine in the event finals this weekend. She begins with a double layout and a double double, performs a controlled quadruple turn, and ends with a triple twist. Check out her reaction at the end!

Oh no! I was really looking forward to a Korean North vs South showdown on vault, but that will have to wait for next year. Poor Ri Se Gwang (PRK) had to miss the 2012 Olympics when his federation was banned, and he just barely missed the final after falling on his piked Dragulescu first vault (D=6.4). He did a great job on his half-on, full-in back out (Tsukahara-Tsukahara?!) second vault (D=6.4), though, and ended up only 0.479 from first place. If only he had held back a bit on the difficulty in order to ensure a spot in the final….

At age 29, Vasiliki Millousi (GRE) is still going strong. Her stylish beam routine seemed a little underscored at 13.833 (D=5.9, E=7.933), and she just missed out on qualifying to the All Around by 0.098. Hmm….

Perhaps the worst time was had by Igor Radivilov (UKR), as he was injured on his Tsukahara piked double back vault after sticking a Dragulescu. He will be missed in the vault finals.

McKayla Maroney (USA) proved once again that she is the one to beat on vault. Both her Amanar and Mustafina vaults were fantastic in the air and she qualified in first place despite the large steps forward. Look for her atop the medal podium in finals.

Stay tuned for the All Around and Apparatus Finals!

A New Quadrennium

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

It’s always interesting to see how things pan out in a post-Olympic year. Sometimes the stars lose their brilliance, while the new kids on the block step up to prove their mettle. It’s always sad to see favourites retire, and sometimes you don’t even realize how much you like a gymnast until they’re gone.

Take Sandra Izbasa (ROM), for example. Unless Bellu and Bitang can lure her back, it looks as though she is finished with international competition. I feel like she’s been on the scene forever, but she’s really only 22 years old. She won floor at the 2008 Olympics with near-perfect tumbling runs and overcame serious injuries before grabbing gold on vault and placing 5th all around at the 2012 Olympics. Her floor routine was one of the most captivating in London, and it made me realize just how much I appreciate her presence.

Sandra Izbasa (ROM), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise Apparatus Final

Aw man, if only she hadn’t fallen on the last skill of her career!

Other stars are continuing on in the sport, and it remains to be seen how they will fare against the new crop of gymnasts. Viktoria Komova (RUS) displays what I think is the best combination of grace, form, difficulty and power the world has ever seen. I hope she’ll be able to maintain the same level of magic in the coming years.

Viktoria Komova (RUS), 2010 Youth Olympic Games, Floor Exercise

Kohei Uchimura (JPN) was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and didn’t seem to be in peak form at the 2012 Olympic Games. Of course, despite putting his hands down on floor, he still managed to win the all around by a whopping 1.659, the same margin that separated gymnasts 2 through 13. Usually I find myself rooting for the underdog, but I know I’ll always hope for King Kohei to maintain his throne. Looks like there are some new tricks up his sleeve:

Kohei Uchimura (JPN), Kovacs-Kolman-Kolman Combo

Now that Nikolai Kuksenkov has left the Ukrainian team in favour of Team Russia, it will be interesting to see how that shakes up standings on the international scene. Coach Igor Korobchinsky may deny it, but that is quite a blow to Ukraine.

Nikolai Kuksenkov (UKR), 2011 World Championships, High Bar

One gymnast I’ve been excited to see on the senior international stage is Katelyn Ohashi (USA) and she’s finally old enough!

Katelyn Ohashi (USA), 2011 National Championships, Balance Beam

Mykayla Skinner (USA) recently busted out a laid out double-double on floor. It’s been over a quarter of a century since a woman first showcased a full-twisting double layout, so this was a long time coming. Skinner may be selected for the 2013 Worlds team based on her floor tumbling alone!

Should be another great quadrennium. I hope it’s as exciting as the last!

2012 Olympic Games – Men’s All Around

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Kohei Uchimura Sets Sights on Olympic Gold

I woke up this morning like a kid on Christmas Day, and boy, did Santa deliver! Kohei Uchimura (JPN) had the gold medal wrapped up heading into floor. With pommel horse under his belt, it was smooth sailing through rings, vault (perfect 2.5-twisting Yurchenko for a 16.266) and parallel bars. He wisely removed the Kovacs from his high bar routine, staying on the apparatus for a 15.600. The only glitch of the day came on floor, where Uchimura put his hands down on the difficult 1.5-twist punch layout Randi. But after landing his final triple twist, he knew he would once again stand on the highest step of the podium. Some might complain that no one should win the All Around with a fall, but the fact of the matter is that he is just so superior across all six events that losing one point for a fall is not going to dethrone King Kohei from the top of the leader board.

Kohei Uchimura – Men’s All Around Final London 2012 Olympics

Halfway through the competition, I started to get excited over the idea of a Japanese 1-2. Kazuhito Tanaka, who replaced the injured Koji Yamamuro for the All Around final, was in 2nd place with a sizable lead heading into his final two events, but major errors on floor and pommels dropped him to 6th. Marcel Nguyen (GER) put up quite a fight, going 6-for-6 and ending up with a silver medal. He has been eclipsed by more famous teammates Fabian Hambüchen and Philipp Boy in the past, but today he emerged from their shadows. He should feel incredibly proud of coming in 1st of the non-Uchimuras. Danell Leyva (USA) demonstrated a fantastic high bar routine and moved from 7th to claim the bronze medal in the final rotation. I felt sorry for Mykola Kuksenkov (UKR), who once considered competing for Russia but decided against it in order to remain eligible for the Olympic Games. He finished 4th here, just as he did in the All Around at the 2010 World Championships, and just as his Ukrainian team did here in London.

David Belyavskiy (RUS) was a close 5th, starting his day with a gorgeous double-piked-full-in on floor. It was a bummer that the Brits both fell during the 4th rotation: Kristian Thomas over-rotated his Yurchenko double pike vault, while Daniel Purvis came off after a wayward element on parallel bars. Nevertheless, they fought hard and ended up in 7th and 13th place, and they will come away from the Games thrilled with their bronze team medal. John Orozco (USA) ended well with an awesome high bar routine for 8th. I really admire John and wish he could have returned to America with a little Olympic hardware. He seems like such a good guy who does all he can to help his family, and it was upsetting seeing how devastated he was after pommel horse.

So in the end Uchimura pulled it off, and all is right in the world of men’s gymnastics. Now that he has won the Olympic All Around gold medal and pretty much everything else in this quadrennium in such convincing fashion, perhaps he can officially be referred to as The Best Gymnast Of All Time.

CTV’s Rod Black: Is he the best ever?

Kyle Shewfelt (CAN), 2004 Olympic Floor Champion: He really is, and there’s a good reason for that. Everything he does is so difficult, but he doesn’t make it look difficult – it’s effortless. He does an incredible amount of skill, he’s talented, he’s gifted and it’s light and effortless and really the entire gymnastics community and everyone around the world should just bow down to him cause he’s the king.

Here’s a fun video of all the stuff Uchimura has been training. We already know he has tremendously difficult skills like the Ri Jong Song (triple twisting double back) on floor and the Fedorchenko (triple twisting double layout) off high bar under his belt, but check out these other amazing skills he’s working on:

0:41 Quadruple twisting double back

1:24 Yurchenko triple twist (yikes, careful with those knees!)

1:49 Shaham (1.5-twisting Kovacs)

1:55 Double twisting Kovacs!

2:11 Double Kovacs!!!

Kohei Uchimura – Unique Combinations and Skills

World Championships Tokyo 2011 – King Uchimura III (from FIG Channel)

2012 Olympic Games – Men’s Team Final

Monday, July 30th, 2012

What exactly is a handstand? In the 20 years I’ve been following gymnastics, it never occurred to me to ask such a simple question. The drama that unfolded surrounding Kohei Uchimura’s pommel horse dismount really got me thinking about the definition of this most common of skills. Must the body be completely vertical? Should there be no shoulder angle? Must the arms be straight, with weight equally distributed between the two? Well, ideally, yes. But luckily for the Japanese team, video review proved Uchimura’s handstand dismount to be just handstand enough for the silver medal!

The Infamous Handstand

While I was desperately hoping that the Japanese men could pull off the win, they simply made too many mistakes to challenge mighty China for the title. The worst part was Koji Yamamuro’s crashed vault, following which he hopped on one leg toward the sitting area. Kazuhito Tanaka then found himself performing on pommel horse with only the 30-second warmup under his belt. Not surprisingly, he fell early in the routine. Despite his botched pommel horse dismount, Kohei managed to score an all around total of 92.048, which would have placed him at the top of the leader board had he had this performance during prelims.

The American men must be deeply disappointed with their performance, given that they qualified in first place to the Team Final. Right off the bat, they didn’t seem to have the same confidence they exuded in prelims and they made several uncharacteristic errors. Ukraine, too, must be having a hard time sleeping tonight after the high of nailing difficult routines and celebrating an Olympic medal, followed by the low of having their placement reduced to 4th place with the change in Uchimura’s pommel horse score.

A Message from Jake Dalton and Jonathan Horton (USA)

On the bright side, China and Great Britain put together fabulous performances when it counted most and deserved their gold and bronze medals. It’s unbelievable to think that just last year Great Britain was 10th at Worlds and had to fight for an Olympic spot at the Test Event in January. Just look at them now! Kristian Thomas sure knows how to stick a landing; the crowd, which included Princes William and Harry, was going wild for the hometown boys.

Kristian Thomas (GBR), Team Final Vault – Yurchenko double pike – stuck!

One thing that really bothers me is the unacceptable size of the awards podium. For a team competition, it should be wide enough for all the team members to stand in a line. In one photo I have seen, Koji Yamamuro, Louis Smith (GBR) and Sam Oldham (GBR) are not even visible behind teammates, and Kazuhito Tanaka’s face is partially obscured. That’s not fair!

If the women’s competition tomorrow is anything like the men’s, we can expect the unexpected. Good luck to everyone!

2012 Olympic Games – Prelims

Monday, July 30th, 2012

The preliminary rounds of competition are over, and as expected, there was plenty of drama! Right off the bat, all eyes were on Kohei Uchimura (JPN), who definitely had an off day falling on high bar and pommel horse. I have confidence that he can pull himself together for Team Finals and the All Around. He is a star who knows how to handle the pressure, and despite the errors, there were flashes of his usual brilliance. Unfortunately, some of his teammates seemed to struggle as well, but they ended on a good note with several fantastic parallel bar routines. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out in Team Finals.

The Tanaka parents must be so proud! Kazuhito, Rie and Yusuke represent 30% of the Japanese gymnasts on the floor in London, and Yusuke and Kazuhito will be battling it out for the gold medal on parallel bars (the qualified in first and second place)! Rie is one to watch as well, having won the Longines Prize for Elegance at the 2010 World Championships. I really enjoyed her Pink Panther floor routine in prelims!

It’s always exciting when the TV broadcast pans to lesser known gymnasts. Shek Wai Hung (HKG), a vault finalist at last year’s Worlds, sat down his double front and I felt so sad seeing the disappointment on his face. 2011 World bronze medalist Phan Thi Ha (VIE) ended up 12th on vault after a fall and a stumble. Some of the worst moments of preliminaries were when Sherine el-Zeiny (EGY) hurt her leg during a double tuck on floor and had to be carried away by her coach and when Yao Jinnan (CHN) collapsed in pain after aggravating a leg injury on vault. Other heartbreaking moments include learning of the disqualification of Luiza Galiulina (UZB) who tested positive for furosemide (I’m sure Daria Elizarova would have loved to represent Uzbekistan in London!), the exclusion of Jordyn Wieber (USA) from the All Around final, and Kieran Behan (IRE) not competing to the best of his ability:

I’ve got to hand it to the Romanian women. Just last year it appeared their team was fizzling away having won no medals at the Worlds for the first time in 3 decades. Then Ana Porgras retired unexpectedly in January and it seemed as though they might not be able to field adequate lineups for the Olympics. I am so impressed with the improvements they have made in a short amount of time, and with the fact that their team includes the past two Olympic Floor Champions: Catalina Ponor in 2004 and Sandra Izbasa in 2008. Despite having several uncharacteristic errors in prelims, they showed they are back and will once again be in the medal hunt come Team Finals.

Oksana Chusovitina (GER) and Jordan Jovtchev (BUL) should receive some sort of special medal for longevity! At ages 37 and 39, they are both competing in their SIXTH Olympic Games! And not just participating, but competing in the vault and rings apparatus finals!

Canada just managed to squeak into Team Finals in 8th place, an accomplishment made even more impressive after losing Peng Peng Lee to injury. Brittany Rogers and Elsabeth Black also qualified to vault finals, and Dominique Pegg will compete in the All Around. Unfortunately, the top two gymnasts will not be moving on past Team Finals. Kristina Vaculik did not qualify to the All Around after falling twice on beam, and Victoria Moors just missed Floor finals despite nailing her fantastic double-double mount. This has got to be one of the best teams Canada has ever fielded, and it was sweet of the girls to wear white flowers in their hair in tribute to Honorary Captain Peng Peng.

I have very much enjoyed the television commentary by Canadian Kyle Shewfelt. He is enthusiastic, positive, knowledgeable, and is always kind toward all gymnasts while remaining realistic about their chances. It’s refreshing to hear, and he makes it even more fun to watch gymnastics!