Gymnastics legend Uchimura not ready to step down

Japanese gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura said he would consider his future after finishing the world championships empty handed on Sunday, but hinted that his love for the sport may be drawing him back.

Uchimura finished sixth in the Horizontal Bar final – the only event he entered this week to save a break on his ailing shoulders.

The World Championships were being held in his hometown of Kitakyushu in western Japan, and some speculated that he would later time on his illustrious career.

But the 32-year-old brushed off the retirement saying that the competition had fueled his fire.

“I can’t say anything about retirement at the moment — I need to relax and think about it,” said Uchimura, widely regarded as the best male gymnast in history.

“I was reminded tonight how much I love gymnastics. I just can’t feel like I don’t want to do it anymore. I was reminded how interesting it is.”

Uchimura has dominated gymnastics over the past decade, winning consecutive all-around Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and claiming 10 World Championship golds.

But injuries have slowed him in recent years, and he decided not to defend his all-around Olympic title in Tokyo this summer to focus on the horizontal bar.

Their games ended early after falling in qualifying, and were left behind by new world champion Hu Xuwei of China in Sunday’s final.

Uchimura said he was “still convinced” that he could return to his former heights, but no longer felt he had to be the poster boy of gymnastics.

He pointed to the emergence of Japan’s all-around champion Daiki Hashimoto and said that gymnastics is now “highly rated” in the world.

“I’ve always felt that if I’m going to compete, I have to aim to be the best in the world,” he said.

“But I realized a little bit tonight that maybe I don’t have that role anymore, seeing Daiki and others on the horizontal bar. There’s a new generation emerging from all the different countries.”

Uchimura made a few mistakes in his routine, but pulled off a textbook landing, eliciting wild cheer from the crowd of his hometown.

But he said his performance was not up to scratch in training, and he was “reminded that practice is everything”.

“Just because it was being held in my hometown or because it could be my last competition – that alone is not going to give me the strength to win at this level,” he said.

Elsewhere on the final day of the World Championships, Carlos Yulo of the Philippines took the men’s vault title, but lost to Hu Xuwei in the parallel bar.

Mai Murakami of Japan defeated Russian Women’s All-Around World Champion Angelina Melnikova in the floor competition, taking her to first place after a successful appeal.

Murakami’s Japanese compatriot Urara Ashikawa won the balance beam.

Several top gymnasts, including American superstar Simone Biles, were absent from the world championships, which were being held in the same year as the Olympics for the first time in 25 years.

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