- Kohei Uchimura fell on the horizontal bar at the Tokyo Olympics and did not qualify for the final.
- Uchimura, largely considered the greatest men’s gymnast, said he had never experienced such failure.
- Uchimura has not said if he is done competing, but at 32, he barely qualified for Tokyo.
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Kohei Uchimura’s legacy is secure, but his Olympic career likely ended with an abrupt thud on Saturday in Tokyo.
Uchimura of Japan, nicknamed “King Kohei,” is largely considered the greatest men’s gymnast of all time, with three Olympic gold medals and 10 world championship golds. He did not lose in the all-around world championships from 2009-2016.
However, on Saturday, Uchimura slipped during qualifications on the horizontal bar while attempting a pirouette and fell to the mat.
Uchimura got back on the bar to finish his routine, but his score did not qualify for the final.
“I never failed like this in practice, and I can’t figure out why it happened,” Uchimura said afterward, according to The New York Times. “I’ve also been successful at the Olympics throughout my whole career. I’ve never experienced failure like this.”
Uchimura struggled with injuries in 2019 and decided to focus solely on the horizontal bar to make the Olympics. He barely made it onto the team, however, needing a tiebreak point to qualify. He is not part of the Japanese all-around team this year.
“In the last three Olympics I took part in, I was always able to bring out in competition what I practiced, but I can’t do that anymore,” Uchimura said on Saturday, according to Reuters. “I’m past my peak. I just have to accept that calmly.”
Uchimura did not say if this was his last competition, but at 32, it was almost certainly his final Olympics. The World Championships will be held in Japan later this year.
Uchimura briefly left the arena after his routine but later returned to cheer on the Japanese team. He told reporters he realized that the team might not need him anymore.
“When I came back to the floor after my performance, they were getting together, discussing things, and solving problems by themselves. I don’t think I’m needed by them anymore.”