Gymnastics: All-around good guy Uchimura seals repeat win

Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:05pm EDT
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By Pritha Sarkar

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Kohei Uchimura left it late - very, very late - before a heart-stopping final horizontal bar routine lifted him into the pantheon of greats as he became the first gymnast in 44 years to win back-to-back Olympic all around titles on Wednesday.

In the end, all it took was a razor-thin 0.099 of a point to separate triumph and disaster.

A day after the American women romped to the team title by more than eight points, Uchimura, Oleg Verniaiev and Britain's Max Whitlock provided the kind of edge-of-the-seat drama that tore everyone's nerves to shreds.

Going into the final round, it seemed as if the unthinkable would happen and the man who has been unbeaten in the event since picking up a silver in the 2008 Olympics would be knocked off his perch by Verniaiev.

In a high-quality contest devoid of falls and spills by the top contenders, Verniaiev led the standings from the third rotation and held a 0.901 of a point lead over the Japanese great ahead of their final apparatus, the horizontal bar.

When Uchimura, who fell from the bar during qualifying, earned 15.800 with his high-flying routine that drew a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs" each time he performed one of his four release and catch maneuvers, it left Verniaiev needing to overhaul a target of 14.899.

Having amassed 15.133 in qualifying, the 22-year-old Ukrainian knew the gold was within touching distance.

Verniaiev raised his fist after completing his dismount with a wobble and clutched the Ukrainian badge on his vest as he urged the crowd to cheer him as he waited for his total to flash up on the giant screen in the Rio Olympic Arena.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Artistic Gymnastics - Final - Men's Individual All-Around Final - Rio Olympic Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10/08/2016.  Kohei Uchimura (JPN) of Japan poses with his gold medal, REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach