Retiring gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura bows out at exhibition | Inquirer Sports
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Retiring gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura bows out at exhibition

/ 08:58 PM March 12, 2022
Kohei Uchimura of Japan stands after competing on the horizontal bar.

FILE PHOTO: Kohei Uchimura of Japan stands after competing on the horizontal bar. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

Japanese gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura brought the curtain down on his career Saturday at an exhibition event in Tokyo to send one of the sport’s all-time greats into retirement.

The 33-year-old performed on all six apparatus to give the crowd one last glimpse of the sublime talent that made him a triple Olympic gold medalist and a six-time all-around world champion.

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He appeared alongside a group of Japanese gymnasts, including his fellow gold medal-winning teammates from the Rio Games and reigning all-around Olympic champion Daiki Hashimoto.

Uchimura looked calm and relaxed as the event began, but soon began to frown in deep concentration as his perfectionist streak took hold.

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“The ideal I aim for is that you have to make it like a work of art,” he said.

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“You have to go beyond the confines of gymnastics and make the audience think it’s like they’re looking at a painting or something.”

Uchimura won back-to-back all-around Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016, and reigned as world champion for eight years starting from 2009.

His body began to show signs of wear and tear in recent years, and he dropped the defense of his all-around title at last year’s Tokyo Olympics to focus on the horizontal bar.

He failed to reach the final, falling in qualifying.

The physical strain was apparent on Saturday, with Uchimura saying he was “reminded just how brutal it is to compete in all six events.”

“My whole body was sore right from the moment I landed after the final apparatus,” he said.

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“It made me think it’s a good thing I’m retiring.”

Uchimura received video tributes from a string of his former rivals, including Britain’s Max Whitlock and Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands.

Hashimoto, who will try to emulate Uchimura’s feat of back-to-back Olympic all-around titles at the 2024 Paris Games, said the retiring legend was “a demon at manipulating his body.”

Uchimura intends to stay involved in gymnastics in some capacity and said he enjoyed his final performance.

“It’s been a while since I performed in front of so many people and it was a great stage to perform on all six apparatus,” he said.

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