Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura pulled off an incredible comeback in the men’s gymnastics all-around final on Wednesday in Rio to become the first male gymnast in 44 years to repeat as Olympic gold medalist in the event.
Uchimura, known fondly as King Kohei, is widely considered the best male gymnast in history, having won six all-around world championships to go with his Olympic medals. Earlier this same Olympics, Uchimura led Japan to a team gold medal, one of the rare titles that had previously eluded him.
During the individual all-around on Wednesday, Uchimura trailed by 0.9 points — gymnastics for “a mile” — to Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine. Neither Verniaiev nor Uchimura made any noticeable mistakes throughout their finals; this was a finale that came down to very minor deductions, many of which were not even visible to the casual viewer’s eye.
Coming into the high bar, both Verniaiev’s and Uchimura’s final event of the six-event circuit, Uchimura needed to ace his routine and hope Verniaiev had some blemishes.
Uchimura did just that — perfectly sticking his landing to cap off a stellar 15.8 score. Verniaiev went next, and though his routine was strong, it had a lower score potential than Uchimura’s, and he had a small hop on the landing. The judges awarded him a 14.8.
After Verniaiev’s high bar score was announced, boos rang out around the gymnastics arena. Verniaiev was visibly disappointed, having come so close to his first Olympic gold medal.
And so, 27-year-old Uchimura went from 0.9 points down to 0.1 points in the lead. That was that.
It was the first time in Uchimura’s run of dominance that he had actually been challenged:
Kohei’s margins of victory in the AA:
— Uncle Tim (@uncletimmensgym) August 10, 2016
Here’s how close it was in the end:
“The greatest all-around men’s final history,” NBC commentator Jonathan Horton said afterwards.”We just witnessed it.”
Horton added: “Long live King Kohei.”
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