Three-time all-around world champion Kohei Uchimura sent his London Olympic rivals a timely reminder of his mercurial talents on Sunday, capturing his fifth consecutive title at the national all-around gymnastics championships.
Dubbed “Japan’s beautiful machine” by German rival Philipp Boy, Uchimura, the only Japanese gymnast to have already booked his ticket to London, delivered a solid performance to score 92.650 points ahead of Kenya Kobayashi (90.800) and Shogo Nonomura (90.050).
“I wasn’t really thinking about a fifth straight title and just was trying to perform with care. I was trying to treat this championships as though a place on the Olympic team was at stake,” said Uchimura, modestly playing down his achievement.
“It (winning a fifth straight title) didn’t really sink in when I was on the podium. There were parts of my performance that I wasn’t particularly happy with, so I felt disappointed about that more than happy about winning five titles in a row.”
Uchimura, who became the first gymnast in history to win three consecutive men’s all-around titles at the worlds in Tokyo in October, won just one of the six apparatus, scoring 15.800 on the floor, but never seriously looked in danger of missing out on the title.
The 23-year-old got an earlier-than-expected nod from the Japan Gymnastic Association in December for the Olympics based on his strong showing at the worlds. He won four medals: individual all-around and floor exercise golds, ateam silver and a bronze in the horizontal bar.
Japanese gymnasts usually have to go through selection events in the spring of the Olympic year, but the association said Uchimura’s results at the worlds warranted giving him the green light.
The remaining four men and five women will be named to the Japanese Olympic team based on the results of this championships and next month’s NHK Cup.
In women’s action, Rie Tanaka, who topped the women’s preliminaries on Saturday, captured her first national title with 56.450. Natsumi Sasada was second with 54.450 and Yumi Iizuka was third with 54.400.
“I’m happy to win my first title. I didn’t make any big mistakes and was able to perform how I know I can,” said Tanaka. “I won and I am pleased but this is just a passing point to London and I want to do well at the NHK Cup too.”
Koko Tsurumi, the 2009 world all-around bronze medalist, failed in her bid for a seventh straight national title, finishing seventh with 52.950.