Kohei Uchimura won his first gold medal in the men’s individual all-around
London (GBR) AGU Office, August 01, 2012: The Japanese gymnast’s relief was palpable when he nailed his last tumbling pass on floor, breaking into a rare smile as he looked around the stadium in disbelief.
It is the first men’s all-around title for Japan in 40 years.
Uchimura finished with 92.690 points, almost two in front of Leyva. Marcel Nguyen won the silver, giving Germany its first Olympic medal in the men’s all-around since 1936.
When Uchimura finished floor exercise, his final routine, he gave a slight bow to the crowd before breaking into a wide grin. He pumped his fist toward several fans waving Japanese flags as he trotted off the podium, then graciously accepted congratulations from his competitors.
“I have been a world champion three times, three years in a row,” Uchimura said. “But this is different. It’s once in four years, and the wait was there. I felt like the demon was chasing me this time.”
Uchimura has been untouchable since winning the silver medal in Beijing, so stylishly sublime that Germany’s Philipp Boy, runner-up at the last two world championships, lamented he had been born in “the wrong age.”
Uchimura has the tough tricks, but does them with such elegance and precision that his routines look more like performance art. Even in photographs, there are no signs of the flaws — bent legs, crossed ankles, crooked lines — that bedevil other gymnasts.
“I like perfection,” Uchimura said.
Uchimura previously announced he planned to win five gold medals at London 2012, a goal he promptly lost sight of after failing to qualify for three apparatus finals, and having to settle for silver in the team final.
The Japanese star was uncharacteristically off in qualifying and the team finals, perhaps feeling the pressure of pursuing gold. Japan was runner-up to China at the Beijing Olympics and the last four world championships, and Uchimura said earlier this year he was “fed up” with always finishing second.
He finished ninth in qualifying after falling off both high bar and pommel horse. He wasn’t much better in the team finals, botching his pommel horse routine again and needing a score review just to get Japan the silver medal.
Japan’s Tanaka then saw his medal hopes disappear thanks to a costly fall on his final piece of apparatus, the Pommel Horse, to drop him into sixth place after he had spent the majority of the competition in second.
Though he cannot win five, this all-around title puts Uchimura back in the gold mine.
The three-time World Champion still has a shot at two other gold medals, in the floor exercise and parallel bars finals.
“I’ve been aiming for this for a long time and now I have achieved it. It’s a dream,” said Uchimura. “I have been World Champion in the all-around three times in a row, but this is a different feeling. The Olympics are only once in four years.