Untouchable Uchimura World And Olympic Gymnastic Champion through his management, has announced his retirement from the sport on Tuesday.
The stellar results put in by Untouchable Uchimura over nearly a decade and a half made him the foremost competitor of his era and led many to consider him the greatest male gymnast in history. His capacity for delivering difficult yet impeccable exercises, underpinned by an uncompromising drive for perfection, lifted him above international rivals, who took to referring to him as “Superman” or “King Kohei.”
The Kitakyushu native, whose father was a coach and whose mother was a gymnast, was recognised as a rising star after making his international debut as a teenager in 2006. He proved it by winning All-Around and team silvers at his first Olympic Games in Beijing (CHN) in 2008, when he was still only 19.
By 2009 he was the world champion, a title he would successfully defend every year until 2017. At London 2012 and Rio 2016, he triumphed in the All-Around, the first man since Kato Sawao (JPN) in 1968 and 1972 to capture two Olympic All-Around crowns. In eight appearances at the World Championships, he amassed 21 medals, two shy of the men’s record, and 10 golds, including world titles on Floor Exercise, Parallel Bars, and Horizontal Bar, in addition to his six All-Around titles.
“The sport of Gymnastics, in its long history, has always been pursuing the two wheels, both difficulty and execution, but only a few gymnasts can achieve both of them. Only those who perform completely both difficulty and beauty can become a true gymnast,” commented FIG President Watanabe Morinari (JPN) in a tribute to Uchimura. “Uchimura Kohei has continuously been the true gymnast since the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in 2009 in London.
It’s an amazing achievement, but results are not everything. He demonstrated to the world Gymnastics that combines ‘difficulty and beauty’ and ‘solidarity and friendship.’ That’s why he is ‘King of Gymnastics.’”
In recent years, as age and wear and tear from the sport began ebbing at his dominance, Uchimura remained the leader of the formidable Japanese men’s team, as well as its biggest supporter. Asked before the 2016 Games if he would rather have Olympic team gold for Japan or the individual All-Around title for himself, Uchimura replied that the team title was far more important. He got both.
During the past two years, Uchimura has focused on Horizontal Bar, and overcame stiff competition to capture an individual berth to last summer’s Tokyo 2020 Games, where he competed as a specialist. Despite nailing his new Bretschneider release element, a fall late in the routine cost him a place in the final.
He rebounded at the World Championships in his hometown of Kitakyushu (JPN) two months later, hitting his routine for a sixth-place finish on the apparatus, much to the delight of the home crowd, which gave him a standing ovation. “I want to give all the people supporting me a performance that expresses my gratitude,” he explained at the time.
But even he understood that the moment could not last forever.
“My body has reached its limit,” he said. “And even if I were to continue competing, I think it would be difficult to get into the Japanese team.”
“I wish him a glorious future,” Watanabe said.