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‘King Kohei’ extends reign at NHK Cup, claims 40th straight victory in all-around events

Kyodo

Kohei Uchimura secured his ninth straight individual all-around title at the NHK Cup on Sunday, clinching a place in the world championships, starting in late September in Montreal, along with runner-up Kenzo Shirai.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist in the event trailed Shirai by 0.500 point heading into the final high bar but Shirai could only post 13.950 and Uchimura took full advantage, scoring 14.800 to overtake him by 0.350.

Uchimura, who’s also called “King Kohei,” won with 172.900 points with the score from the final at the national championships last month, when Uchimura won his 10th straight title, carried over. Yusuke Tanaka was third at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

“I believe I’ve made a good start to the season by coming through all six apparatus without big mistakes,” said Uchimura after winning his 40th straight all-around title.

“I was much sharper during practice, but it’s been a while since the last competition. Hopefully I can make adjustments at the worlds.”

Uchimura said he was more pleased with floor-specialist Shirai, with whom he won the team gold in Rio last summer, reaching the world stage individually than his own achievement.

“The fact that Kenzo finally made the world stage in the all-around is more pleasing than my ninth straight title or worlds berth,” he said.

“My performance lacked substance today, and I actually thought it’d have been good if Kenzo won.”

Shirai, 20, pushed his 28-year-old rival all the way and vowed to keep doing so.

“I made the best start with my favorite floor and got on the roll for all six apparatus,” he said. “Younger generations are emerging since the nationals and thought we had the momentum to win against the veterans, but in the end it was even.

“I’ll try to provide more surprises and make my presence felt at the apparatus championships (in June) too.”

The men’s team for the worlds in Canada will be made up of a maximum of six members, with the final list set to be announced in September.