Artistic Gymnastics

Uchimura Kohei wows with 15.533 on horizontal bar at All-Japan Championships

Three-time Olympic gold medallist surprises himself with best performance yet as specialist ahead of Sunday's final.

By Shintaro Kano ·

Uchimura Kohei certainly backed up his belief that he was due a horizontal bar performance he could be proud of.

The three-time Olympic artistic gymnastics champion earned a superb 15.533 points to finish well clear of his rivals as the top qualifier at the All-Japan Championships on Friday (11 December), afterwards describing his showing as the best of his career in preliminaries.

The all arounder-turned horizontal bar specialist managed to find a way to improve on his impressive 15.200 at last month's Friendship and Solidarity Competition.

"I can't recall doing this well in a preliminary. Ever," Uchimura said after his lone performance of the day at Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture.

"Maybe for the first time in my life I surprised myself. I didn’t think I’d be this good in qualifying. But I guess it’s proof I am building on what I did in the All-Japan Senior Championships (in September) and the Friendship and Solidarity."

Uchimura Kohei relieved: Pain-free at last

Three-time gold medallist and two-time Olympic men's all-around gymnastics ...

Practice makes perfect

Uchimura said he warmed up for two hours in the sub arena on all six apparatus.

The six-time world champion had been stressing the importance of switching on his entire body before competition, not just the muscles used to perform on the high bar.

It clearly made a difference on Friday.

"When I warmed up, I went on the horizontal bar last before going to the main arena," Uchimura said. "At first I had doubts about today but 15 minutes before competition, I felt like I was in a pretty good place mentally.

"I think the single biggest reason behind the performance is the quality work I've been putting in up to this point."

In his two other meets this year, Uchimura had not been pleased with his execution of the Bretschneider - the catch after a double somersault with double twist.

He was even thinking of leaving it out on Friday but was talked out of doing so by his coach Sato Hiroaki.

Keeping it in turned out to be the right move and, despite shuffling his feet slightly on landing, the 31-year-old pumped his fist several times and had a big grin on his face as he met the media.

"Once I grabbed the bar, everything was like practice. It was automatic. For the first time in a while, I was in a zone. I’m obviously aware of what I’m doing but it felt like the body took over."

"The best (Bretschneider) in a competition so far. But looking back on it now, I only performed the way I’ve been practising.

"I’m pretty happy about the score. Maybe too good to be honest. I don’t think I’ve ever scored this high, even overseas.

"With a score like this, I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the final. I’ll rest up tomorrow and regroup."

In the all-around, Kaya Kazuma leads the field with 86.899 from Tanigawa Wataru (86.431) and Chiba Kenta (86.165).

Kitazono Takeru lies seventh with 85.164.