Gymnastics royalty ‘King Kohei’ Uchimura suffers shock exit at his home Olympics after crashing to the mat in the high bars – seeing his search for one final medal come to an abrupt end in Tokyo
The reign of Japan’s ‘King Kohei’ came to a shock end at his home Olympics – but there were no such surprises surrounding Team GB’s own gymnastics superstar Max Whitlock.
Kohei Uchimura is one of his country’s most revered athletes having won eight Olympic medals, including three golds, most notably the last two all-around titles.
Having struggled with injury since Rio 2016, the 32-year-old was only competing in the high bars here in search of one last gong before he retires.
Japan’s Kohei Uchimura suffered a shock exit from his home Olympics on Saturday
Uchimura crashed to the mat in qualifying – ending his hopes of reaching the final
However, a nation was in mourning when Uchimura crashed to the mat in qualifying – ending his hopes of reaching the final and bringing an unhappy ending to his storied career.
Britain’s double Olympic champion Whitlock, at least, secured a safe passage into Sunday’s pommel horse final.
The 28-year-old started the defence of his title with a solid score of 14.9, well down on his winning mark of 15.966 at Rio 2016, but leaving scope to improve his difficulty level.
He was only competing in the high bars here in search of one last gong before he retires
However, one of Japan’s most revered athletes crashed out of qualifying on the high bars
Even Whitlock, though, was left talking about the demise of a man he has previously described as his sporting hero. ‘I don’t usually watch the other gymnasts but I couldn’t really not notice Kohei on the high bar,’ he said.
‘It’s a huge shame for him in his home country, especially because in the warm-up gym he has been looking amazing.’
About his own return to the Olympics arena, Whitlock added: ‘I can say on behalf of every gymnast that qualification is the hardest and most nerve-racking thing ever because everything rides on it.
Max Whitlock was shocked at the exit of who he previously described as his sporting hero
‘If you muck things up, that’s your Olympics done, and if you don’t, you can go on and have more opportunities to compete in that arena.
‘It was a bit quieter at breakfast this morning and you could feel that it was competition day. But we’ve come out here and I feel like we’ve delivered.’
Whitlock’s team-mate Joe Fraser can also look forward to a final in the parallel bars – the event he is the reigning world champion in – after scoring an impressive 15.4.