Uchimura brings his Midas touch to the Olympics
Updated: 2012-08-03 07:38:41
By Associated Press in London ( China Daily)
Bronze medal around his neck, Danell Leyva applauded as Kohei Uchimura took the top spot on the podium on Wednesday.
Hey, no shame finishing behind a guy who might be the best gymnast of all time.
Uchimura added Olympic gold to the world titles he has won the last three years, and it was never much of a contest. All but wrapping up the gold midway through the meet, the only question was how big his margin of victory would be and who would be standing next to him on the medals podium.
"I have been a world champion three times, three years in a row. But this is different," Uchimura said. "It's once in four years, and the wait was there. I felt like the demon was chasing me this time."
Uchimura's score of 92.690 was more than 1.5 points ahead of silver medalist Marcel Nguyen of Germany. Leyva closed with two of the most spectacular routines of the day on parallel bars and high bar to land in third place.
It was Germany's first Olympic medal in the men's all-round since 1936. And it was an incredible finish for the 20-year-old, who fled Cuba for the United States as a toddler with his mother and older sister. When Leyva saw his high bar score, guaranteeing him a medal, he pumped his fist and threw a few roundhouse punches while his stepfather and coach, Yin Alvarez, hopped up and down and yelled.
"It's a very big deal, but it's good now that we're finished," Alvarez said. "It's great."
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".
But the Japanese star was uncharacteristically off in qualifying and the team final, perhaps feeling the pressure of pursuing gold. The Japanese have been runners-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 the high bar and pommel horse. He wasn't much better in the team final, botching his pommel horse routine again and needing a score review just to get Japan the silver medal.
Whatever ailed him, it was gone on Wednesday. He didn't post a score below 15.1, and had the lead after only three events.
"He's been a rock the last four years, and he really deserves that gold medal today," Britain's Kristian Thomas said.
"It speaks for itself. I had no doubt he'd bring his 'A' game today and that's just what he did. That's the sign of a true champion."
What makes Uchimura so special is that he doesn't seem to have any flaws. When Yang Wei was running roughshod over the competition in the last Olympic cycle, winning a pair of world titles and the gold medal in Beijing, he did it through sheer strength. He bulked up his routines with so much difficulty he started most meets two or three points ahead.
But there's "art" in artistic gymnastics, and Yang didn't have it. He managed to win one of his world titles despite taking such a big fall on high bar that he rolled off the mat to the edge of the podium.
Uchimura has the tough tricks, but does them with such elegance and precision that his routines look more like performance art.
"I like perfection," Uchimura said.
"He's in a different world," German coach Andreas Hirsch said. "He wasn't part of this competition. Uchimura was just like barricaded in his own way."
Sure enough, Uchimura stuck his vault stone cold and leaped to the top of the standings. No one was going to catch him.