Kohei Uchimura repeats as all-around gymnastics champ
Becomes 2nd man to win 3 Olympic medals in event
By Will Graves, The Associated Press
Kohei Uchimura's gold-medal haul keeps growing.
The superstar gymnast from Japan won the men's all-around title on Wednesday night, edging Ukranian Oleg Verniaiev by less than a tenth of the point to capture his second straight Olympic gold. Uchimura trailed heading into the final rotation but put up a dazzling 15.8 on high bar. Verniaiev followed with a less challenging routine and hopped forward on the dismount.
- SCHEDULE & RESULTS: Artistic gymnastics at Rio 2016
- WATCH: Japan's Kohei Uchimura wins gold in the men's individual all-around
Needing 14.9 to win, Verniaiev instead earned a 14.8. The crowd groaned when the score was revealed, though Verniaiev shrugged his shoulders as if to say "what can you do?"
Uchimura finished with a total of 92.365, just ahead of Verniaiev's 92.266.
Max Whitlock of Great Britain was third, just ahead of Russia's David Belyavskiy. American Sam Mikulak recovered from a fall on vault to rally to seventh. Chris Brooks was 14th.
Uchimura arrived in Rio as the overwhelming favorite to back up the all-around gold he won in London four years ago. Yet the six-time world champion said repeatedly his ultimate goal was a team gold for Japan. He got that triumphant moment on Monday night, when he guided the Japanese to the top of the podium for the first time since 2004 with a nearly flawless finishing kick on floor exercise.
The 27-year-old was visibly gassed when he completed his routine, a victory he said was set in motion when his team won the world title last fall. It offered proof to the judges the Japanese could come through when it mattered.
While Uchimura was exulting in triumph, Verniaiev was basically just warming up. Ukraine qualified for the team final but basically gave up when Maksym Semiankiv couldn't participate in the finals due to injury. Rather that put in a replacement athlete to fill in for Semiankiv, Ukraine instead just entered two athletes instead of three, dooming whatever medal chances they had.
Verniaiev shrugged off the decision, saying it gave him freedom to just go out and have fun. It also allowed him to move his focus toward the all-around.
He looked well prepared, taking the lead through two rotations and answering every time it seemed Uchimura threw down a challenge. When Uchimura drilled a 15.566 on vault — the highest of the night on the event — Verniaiev responded with a 15.500. His superb 16.1 on parallel bars — his legs straight as pencils during his handstands — gave him a commanding lead going into the final event on high bar.
Yet Uchimura, the world champion on high bar, put on a spectacular show. He threw four difficult release moves, his body soaring over the bar before catching it just in time.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JPN?src=hash">#JPN</a> Kohei Uchimura goes back-to-back, wins <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Gold?src=hash">#Gold</a> in the all-round individual for the second straight <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Olympics?src=hash">#Olympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/HHgc5hO7q4">https://t.co/HHgc5hO7q4</a>—@CBCOlympics
Verniaiev took a slightly different tact. Knowing what he needed to win Ukraine's first ever all-around Olympic gold in the sport, he put together an easier and less risky routine.
When he landed, he took a hop forward and leaned ever so briefly to the left. He pumped his fist and encouraged the crowd as he exited the podium, then bent over in disappointment afterward.