Thu, Oct 03, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Uchimura tops qualifying for all-around at worlds

AP, ANTWERP, Belgium

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura competes on the horizontal bar at the 44th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Kohei Uchimura proved he is the overwhelming favorite to win a record fourth all-around world championship by qualifying for today’s final by a big margin.

Uchimura also qualified for the weekend floor exercise, high bar and parallel bar finals on Tuesday. However, what really counts for the Olympic champion is to become the first male or female gymnast to win four all-around world titles, which would further cement claims he is the greatest gymnast ever.

With only one of four qualifying groups left, Japanese teammate Ryohei Kato moved into third place with 89.474 points, still trailing Uchimura’s total of 91.924. Sam Mikulak of the US was second on 89.532.

Japan, China and the US led qualifying, while Russia disappointed, with David Belyavskiy as its best performer in 14th place for the all-around, showing there is no easy replacement for injured University Games winner Mykola Kuksenkov.

The qualifying marks are scratched for the final, making Uchimura’s show of force only an exercise in psychological domination.

The reigning Olympic all-around champion produced his traditional show of elegance and power to sweep past early leader Mikulak, the US champion, to top the standings.

Though Uchimura holds the men’s record for all-around world titles, he still shares it with retired women’s gymnast Svetlana Khorkina of Russia.

For good measure, he could win more medals in the apparatus finals.

In the high bar, Uchimura goes up against Olympic champion Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands, Mikulak and Fabian Hambuechen of Germany, the silver medalist at the London Games.

On the floor, Uchimura might be upstaged by 17-year-old teammate Kenzo Shirai, who dominated qualifying with a performance of an exceptionally difficult degree. On the vault, too, the high-school student was impressive.

Overall, Japan has eight places in the six apparatus finals, compared to five each for the US and China, while Russia has only two places.

Most world championships after an Olympic year are packed with surprises, but it was still stunning to see two-time world and Olympic champion Krisztian Berki of Hungary fall off the pommel horse and crash out of the final.

In the women’s competition, 16-year-old Kyla Ross, a member of the US Olympic gold medal team last year, is heading into her first world championship final already showing the poise that comes from owning an Olympic title.

She dominated a weak first qualifying group with 59.198 points. On the beam, she felt she could have even earned more.

“I don’t want to create too much controversy, but I know that I was a little bit disappointed,” she said.

She should be a certainty to make the top 24 for Friday’s all-around final, but since only two gymnasts per country are allowed in, she will have to wait and see what her teammates Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney do in Wednesday’s sessions.

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