RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Gymnastics superstar Kohei Uchimura soared to his third Olympic gold on Wednesday as he defended his all-around crown two days after winning a first team title with Japan.
The 27-year-old snatched the title after a thrilling battle with Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev, winning by just 0.097.
Britain's Max Whitlock won bronze in the Rio Olympic Arena. Uchimura had trailed his 22-year-old rival for the final four of six rotations but pulled out a spectacular horizontal bar routine to seal his seventh Olympic medal over three Olympics.
The gymnast known as 'King Kohei' becomes the first man to successfully defend his title since countryman Sawao Kato in 1972. Uchimura now joins Kato on a record three Olympic medals in men's all-around.
Japan also join the Soviet Union on a record six Olympic titles in the event.
Whitlock, a two-time world all-around medallist, gave Britain a first Olympic men's all-around medal since Walter Tysal's silver in 1908.
The all-around is the pinnacle of men's gymnastics, a battle across six disciplines between 24 of the most athletically impressive competitors in the Games. And it delivered thrilling gymnastics in the Rio Olympic Arena, with reigning six-time world champion Uchimura scoring highest on the floor, vault and the horizontal bar.
Verniaiev lead the way on the rings and parallel bars, finishing second on the pommel horse behind Whitlock, the reigning world champion on the apparatus.
Competing in the same group as Uchimura, the Ukrainian, who had led Saturday's qualifiers, pulled ahead on the rings and had a 0.467 advantage on Uchimura at the half-way point.
Uchimura nailed his vault despite a small hop back on landing, scoring a highest 15.566 of the night. A massive 16.1 by Verniaiev on parallel bars threw down the challenge to Uchimura, who replied with a 15.600, following a small hop on his landing.
Going into the final horizontal bar rotatino - off which Uchimura had tumbled in qualifiers - just 0.901 separated the pair. And showing nerves of steel Uchimura drew gasps of 'ohhh' from the crowd at every soaring acrobatic twist of his daredevil routine.
He stuck a perfect landing to score 15.8 with Verniaiev delivering a less spectacular show on the apparatus losing out with 14.800.
Uchimura has now been unbeaten in the all-around since his silver at the 2008 Beijing Games - with seven Olympic titles to go along with his 19 in world championships - including ten world golds.
In Rio his focus had been on recapturing the team title once dominated by his country after China won gold at Japan's expense in 2008 and 2012. And more gold could come when he competes in the floor final next week.