Uchimura Wins Horizontal Bar for 1st Time in 3 Years at Japan Championships

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kohei Uchimura performs in the horizontal bar on Sunday at the Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture.

Kohei Uchimura made something of a comeback by winning the horizontal bar for the first time in three years at the All-Japan Gymnastics Championships on Sunday.

The three-time Olympic gold medalist took home his fifth national title in the horizontal bar by scoring 15.700 points in the only event he entered at Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture.

Uchimura won by nearly a full point, and though such a score makes him a legitimate contender for the gold medal at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, he said, “I’m not even at the starting line yet.”

For Uchimura to qualify for the Olympics, Japan will have to win individual slots in upcoming international competitions and he will have to win the domestic selection for those slots.

“I want to give performances that I’m even more satisfied with,” he said.

In the men’s all-around, Kazuma Kaya took the title for the first time, perhaps a sign he can be Uchimura’s successor on the global stage as a do-it-all gymnast. Uchimura won gold medals in the individual all-around at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mai Murakami performs the Chusovitina in the vault as seen in this composite of nine photos from Saturday at the Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture.

On Saturday, Mai Murakami won her fourth title in the women’s individual all-around, regaining the top spot she last held in 2018.

“I’m really proud of myself today,” said Murakami, whose run of three consecutive titles was halted by back pain 20 months ago. She increased her strength on the way to her comeback.

In the first event, the vault, she performed a powerful Chusovitina and immediately overtook the competition.

She followed this up with the top score on the uneven bars and second place in the balance beam.

In the final event, the floor exercise, where she was the final performer, she put all her energy into her legs, determined not to repeat her fall in the preliminary round. She was the top scorer in the event despite having points deducted when her momentum twice carried her over the line.

Last year, when she couldn’t make it to the World Championships as she continued her rehabilitation, she thought, “I want to keep adding new techniques and get stronger.”

Her coach, Kyoko Seo, said, “Every day I feel her desire to win a medal at the Olympics.”