OSAKA – Kohei Uchimura said Saturday he is envious of those athletes who have already earned berths to next summer’s Tokyo Games amid his own recent fitness struggles.
“Olympic spots are allocated in many sports, and I’m very jealous of those athletes,” the two-time reigning men’s all-around Olympic champion said. “That makes me realize again that I really want to compete (at the Olympics).”
A six-time world all-around champion, the 30-year-old missed October’s worlds due to pain in both shoulders. He also failed to qualify for the finals at April’s national championships and only managed fifth in his comeback at August’s All-Japan National Senior Championships.
Also missing three-time floor exercise world champ Kenzo Shirai, Japan finished with a bronze for the second straight year in the men’s team event at the world championships in Germany. Russia took gold and China silver.
“It was frustrating that the competition was all about Russia and China. But most frustrating was not being part of the competition,” Uchimura said.
He led Japan to team gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics after taking Olympic silver in 2012 and 2008. Uchimura, known as “King Kohei,” still has a chance to qualify for next summer’s games depending on his performance at domestic competitions.
“I want to book a spot (in the Olympics). It’s really do or die,” he said.
Japan’s team will be decided after the NHK Cup in May, the second event in a two-tournament qualifying process that starts at April’s national championships.
The Japan Gymnastics Association said earlier this month it is considering a new format for the NHK Cup in which athletes perform on each apparatus twice in two days in a bid to select gymnasts who can consistently perform.
“I’m used to performing (each event) once, so I’m worried because I’m not sure how much damage my body will suffer,” Uchimura said. “There’s nothing that can be done about it except to compete according to my own rhythm.”