Kohei Uchimura targets record-extending all-around title

At this week`s world championships, Japan`s Kohei Uchimura will be aiming to break his own formidable record of four consecutive all-around titles by adding a fifth straight crown to his glittering collection. 

Kohei Uchimura targets record-extending all-around title

Tokyo: At this week`s world championships, Japan`s Kohei Uchimura will be aiming to break his own formidable record of four consecutive all-around titles by adding a fifth straight crown to his glittering collection. 

Yet despite his rise to global prominence in the most technical of sports, including winning gold in the all-around event at the 2012 London Olympics, the son of two gymnasts never considered himself a child prodigy.

"When I was little, I would get nervous and blank out sometimes," the 25-year-old, rated by some as the greatest gymnast of all-time, told the Asahi Shimbun daily.

But the boy who finished last in his first-ever competition soon developed a huge appetite for hard work to achieve his aims. 

"When I was in high school I thought I could fly if I tried hard enough," he told the paper.

Popular back home for his affable and relaxed personality, Uchimura always possessed a genuine love for a sport he began practicing as a three-year-old at a gymnasium founded by his parents in the western Japanese city of Isehaya.    

He first learned to maintain his poise and composure in the air on a trampoline his parents acquired from the United States.

"For Kohei, gymnastics wasn`t something he practiced, but an extension of his playtime," his uncle Taiyo Ogawa told the Sankei Shimbun daily in 2012.

The methods Uchimura learned as a child at play linger on in his visualisation of techniques as drawings in a notebook and a tendency to offer up a satisfied grin upon completing a good routine -- what Uchimura himself calls his "`how`s that?` face".

"His expression when he won the gold medal (in London) was the one he used to wear when he managed to pull off a back-flip," Kotaro Ono, a junior high school classmate, told the Sankei. 

Although his skills were described as "extraterrestrial" by some in the media after he won his fourth world title in 2013, Uchimura insisted that everything he had achieved was down to hard work and strict training regimes. 

"I don`t think my natural talent is much different to the other gymnasts," he told the BBC after last year`s world championships. "It is a matter of how I train and how I think about my training."

But in an interview published by Konami Sports & Life, a subsidiary of his games developer employers, he admitted to putting very little time into areas like weight training.

"If you rely on your raw strength, you can`t call it a beautiful performance." he said. "So where I might rely on it during training, by the time I get to the competition, I`ll have gotten to the point where I can do it without thinking."

At the championships being held in the southern Chinese city of Nanning, he will first be aiming for a record-breaking victory while keeping in mind the longer term goals of the Rio Olympics in 2016 and a tilt at the Tokyo Games four years later.

Despite enjoying a hugely successful career to date, Uchimura maintains that striving to be better is all part of the fun.

"The most appealing thing about gymnastics is that no matter how perfect a performance you aim for, you can`t ever be perfect," he told the Asahi.

Asked to define the essence of gymnastics, he replied: "To do a difficult thing in a beautiful way." 

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