Team Gold coronation a dream for King Kohei

ABOVE: Simone Biles during the US national championships. She is bidding for her third straight all-around title in Glasgow. LEFT: The team gold is the only one missing from Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura's huge collection.
ABOVE: Simone Biles during the US national championships. She is bidding for her third straight all-around title in Glasgow.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ABOVE: The team gold is the only one missing from Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura's huge collection.
ABOVE: The team gold is the only one missing from Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura's huge collection. PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Five-time all-around world champion covets Japan's first men's title since 1978, as gymnasts eye Rio Games berths

GLASGOW • Japanese superstar Kohei Uchimura and American Simone Biles will be looking to reap more gold in the pre-Olympic World Gymnastics Championships starting in Glasgow today.

Gymnasts can secure qualification for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games at the championships, which will be staged at the Hydro Arena till Nov 1.

Uchimura, dubbed "King Kohei", will not only be bidding for a sixth consecutive men's all-around title but also his first team gold.

Uchimura, who is particularly strong on floor and parallel bars, has won five Olympic medals including the 2012 all-around gold, and 16 world medals including seven gold. The only gold missing from the 26-year-old's collection is the team title, due to the Chinese men dominating with 10 of the last 11 world titles.

The Asian rivals have battled over the past eight years with China winning two Olympic gold medals more than Japan and last year's world title decided by just one-tenth of a point. "All I'm looking at is winning team gold," insisted Uchimura, as Japan target a first team gold in 37 years.

Prior to travelling to Glasgow, he trained at the same venue in France as before the London Olympics.

"Training in France, I completed all the disciplines with no mistakes so my condition's pretty good," he said.

Team-mate Ryohei Kato, however, is struggling to recover from a left ankle injury. "It's about 80 or 90 per cent there," he told Japanese media after practising in Glasgow. "It should be ready in time. I'm using a thicker mat for landing in training and I don't feel pain."

Meanwhile, Biles, 18, is looking to become the first woman to win three straight titles and help the US women retain their team title.

"Everyone tells me about it but I never think of it that way," she said of the record. "I just go in and try to do as much for the team as I can and then hopefully if I make the all-around final then we'll go from there. But I think it would be pretty cool (to win a third title)."

The powerful US women's team can count on returning stars including reigning Olympic all-around and team gold medallist Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, also a 2012 Olympic floor and team gold medallist.

"It brings out the best in all of us," said Biles of the challenge.

Raisman added: "It's less than a year out (from the Olympics). As a team we look really strong and hopefully better than ever. We're all in a good spot right now."

China took silver last year but will be without injured Yao Jinnan. Russia, bronze medallists in Nanning, are also hit by the absence of Aliya Mustafina, a former world all-around champion.

Olympic all-around silver medallist Viktoria Komova, however, will be making a comeback after last year's absence due to health problems.

"We have installed new names both in both the men's and women's squads," said Russian gymnastics federation chief Vasily Titov. "It's a serious test for our athletes to select those who will represent Russia at the Olympics."

The top eight teams receive an automatic berth for Rio, with ninth to 16th-placed teams competing at a test event in Rio in April.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'TEAM GOLD CORONATION A DREAM FOR KING KOHEI'. Print Edition | Subscribe