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Kohei Uchimura bounces back to win NHK Cup

Kyodo

Two-time Olympic gymnastics champion Kohei Uchimura won the NHK Cup men’s competition for the 10th straight time on Sunday, topping the podium for the first time since returning from a five-month injury layoff in March.

Competitors start with their points from April’s national championships, and supplement those with points earned here at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Uchimura, third at the nationals, and Kenzo Shirai, who was second in April, came from behind to finish first and second.

The competition serves as a qualifier for the Oct. 25-Nov. 3 world championships in Doha, where Uchimura and Shirai will now represent Japan.

“I didn’t make any mistakes, while nailing the landings in all of my routines,” said Uchimura, who is set to compete in his eighth worlds. “I didn’t get to extend my winning streak (to 11) at the nationals, but I’m still gunning for more. I want to aim for gold in the team event at the worlds.”

This year’s national champion, Kakeru Tanigawa, entered the NHK Cup with a 0.332-point lead over Shirai, with Uchimura half a point further back. Tanigawa, who at 19 became Japan’s youngest national champion, led right until the end.

He held a 0.564-point lead over Uchimura going into the high bar, but fell during the routine. Uchimura, with the top high-bar score, came from behind to seize the title. Tanigawa finished fourth.

The 29-year-old Uchimura was aiming for his seventh straight all-around title at last October’s world championships in Montreal, but pulled out after sustaining a left ankle injury in a qualifying session. He made his competitive return in March.