GLASGOW (Reuters) - Kohei Uchimura is no fan of “noisy arenas”, so the Japanese superhero should invest in some heavy-duty earplugs when he heads to Rio next August bidding to become the first gymnast in more than 40 years to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles.
The all-conquering gymnast, who has been immortalised in comic strips in his homeland and has many screaming teenybopper fans around the world, will arrive in Brazil as the holder of a record six world all-around titles.
After collecting every Olympic and world all-around title since taking silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, King Kohei will be favourite to become the first man since compatriot Sawao Kato in 1972 to win successive Olympic all-around titles.
However, Kohei, who has 19 world medals, including 10 golds, said: “I don’t really care about the results. I would rather have a great performance that touches people.”
He certainly whipped up a frenzy in Glasgow as he led Japan to their first world team title in 37 years before enjoying individual success in the all-around and horizontal bar finals.
While other gymnasts have won more medals and more golds, most notably Belarus’s Vitaly Scherbo, no one has dominated the sport or maintained their levels of excellence for as long as Uchimura.
In a gruelling sport that seems to leave champions on the scrapheap faster than it takes Usain Bolt to run the 100 metres, Uchimura’s gymnastics lifespan defies logic.
Yet Uchimura, who would dearly like to meet Bolt, has no time to engage in talk about being the greatest.
“I can’t say I‘m the best in the world, even though I’ve won a lot of medals. I have seen many great gymnasts in history, so I don’t think I‘m the best,” he said.
The 26-year-old was not the only one breaking records in Glasgow.
American Simone Biles, who was 11 when Uchimura picked up his first Olympic medal in 2008, has also been an unstoppable force after becoming the first woman to win a “three-peat” of all-around golds at the worlds.
“I just keep blowing my own mind,” said Biles, who became the most successful female athlete at the worlds after taking her gold-medal haul to 10.
“There are goals that I have and then I dream of it and then I make it a reality. If I could crawl out of my skin and see it, it would be really amazing.”
With mission accomplished in Glasgow, the 4-foot-9 dynamo’s next goal will be to avoid becoming the next victim of the ‘curse of the world all-around champion’.
Since the event was introduced to the Olympic programme in 1952, only three women have captured back-to-back world and Olympic titles - Larisa Latynina (1960), Ludmilla Tourischeva (1972) and Lilia Podkopayeva (1996).
Champion gymnasts of the calibre of Svetlana Khorkina and Shannon Miller have fallen victim to the ‘curse’, but Biles is determined she will not be adding her name to the list.
“That’s a stat that’s been placed into everybody’s head, that you can peak too soon,” said Biles, who triumphed in the team, all-around, balance beam and floor exericise finals over the past week.
“We have a peaking pace and I think my pace is just fine. I don’t think I have peaked yet.”
With Biles and Uchimura winning seven golds between them in Scotland, others were left jostling for fragments of airtime.
Max Whitlock got the home fans leaping up in the stands when his dynamic leg work over the pommell horse made him the first British man to win a world gold in the 112-year history of the championships.
There was shock and laughter in equal measure when four women - Fan Yilin (China), Viktoria Komova (Russia), Daria Spiridonova (Russia) and Madison Kocian (U.S.) - shared an unprecedented four gold medals on the asymmetric bars with their scores deadlocked on 15.366.
However, when the gymnasts gather again in Rio next August, chances are that it will be Biles and Uchimura who will again be “blowing everyone’s mind”.
(This version of the story has been refiled to fix typo in Uchimura, first para)
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Stephen Wood