Bar none: Uchimura Kohei set to return Tuesday after year-long absence

"King Kohei" to compete for first time since August 2019 - reborn as a horizontal bar specialist.

By Shintaro Kano

The Return of the King is coming to a gymnasium near you - in Gunma Prefecture, Japan.

Uchimura Kohei is set to compete for the first time since August 2019 at a Japan Senior Gymnastics Club meet on Tuesday (22 September) at the Takasaki Arena.

The 31-year-old three-time Olympic artistic gymnastics champion was set to star in a competition he organises, the Kohei Uchimura Cup, back in mid-March before the outbreak of the coronavirus forced its cancellation - and the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

This will also be the first event since Uchimura announced this summer that he is vacating the all-around throne and focusing on the horizontal bar because of chronic pain to both shoulders.

Arguably the greatest all-around male gymnast in history, Uchimura had been in danger of failing to qualify for the Games as the injuries piled up. Tokyo 2020 would be the 10-time world champion’s fourth Olympic appearance.

Sticking to the bar, Uchimura told us, has allowed him to be pain free for the first time since Rio 2016, where he successfully defended his all-around title and helped Japan win the men’s team event.

Also competing on Tuesday are Uchimura’s Rio teammates Shirai Kenzo, Tanaka Yusuke, Kato Ryohei, and Yamamuro Koji.

On the women’s side will be Murakami Mai and Teramoto Asuka, who will be making her own return from injury. Teramoto tore her left achilles in February.