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Relaxed, confident ‘King Kohei’ returning to competition at nationals

Kyodo

Kohei Uchimura wants to rehone his competitive instincts at the national individual all-around championships starting Friday, when the nine-time champion returns to action for the first since capturing two gold medals at the Rio Olympics last summer.

After winning the team and the all-around competition in Brazil, the 28-year-old, suffering from a left-shoulder injury, took a break from his career while also becoming Japan’s first professional gymnast.

Uchimura on Thursday said he is not looking to push himself too hard at the championships which double as the second round of trials for the world championships in October in Montreal. He said his focus will be to get his feel back for competition.

“I’ve somehow got myself fit enough to take part in all six apparatus,” Uchimura said. “I’m not concerned by how I do, but I’m thinking more about getting my instincts back for competitions.”

Uchimura said he is not looking to add a high degree of difficulty in his techniques, given the recent rule change that is tough on execution.

“I’ll be able to show my beautiful technique during my program,” he said. “I want to show how well I can land.”

Kenzo Shirai, who won the team gold with Uchimura and a bronze in the vault in Rio, changed many of his components since last season with the aim of growing into an all-arounder from a floor specialist.

“I want to be seen as a gymnast who can compete all-around with the floor and the vault as strengths,” the 20-year-old said.