Kohei Uchimura pulls out of individual all-around at Worlds in Doha

Japan's double Olympic all-around champion is nursing an ankle injury

Japan's Kohei Uchimura has pulled out of the individual all-around competition at the gymnastics world championships in Doha.

The superstar gymnast said he will skip the vault and the floor exercise in order not to put extra strain on his right ankle that he injured last month.

Uchimura wants to focus on the team event.

"It's frustrating, but I think it doesn't feel right to go into the tournament like this," said the three-time Olympic champion. "I still have two years to go until the Tokyo Olympics, so I shouldn't compete now."

The 29-year-old, who hurt his ankle while landing a vault in September, only trained on four of the six apparatus on Monday during podium training. The six-time World champion intends on competing in up to four of the six men's routines in Friday's qualification round.

How fit is Uchimura really?

Uchimura came to dominate the sport from 2009 to 2016 and is considered one of the greatest male gymnasts of all time. But last year at the Worlds in Montreal, he injured his ankle during the qualification competition and withdrew from the meet. Earlier this month, the Japanese Gymnastics Federation revealed Uchimura had suffered an injury to his other ankle while training vault on 25 September.

“I think it’s good,” Uchimura said about his ankle after training on Monday in Doha.

Just how good it is remains to be seen. Uchimura appeared to limp several times throughout the training session, including after taking a short landing on his still rings dismount. On vault and floor exercise, he only did the most basic gymnastics elements along with some jogging down the vault runway. He rolled backward through his dismount off the parallel bars and horizontal bar.

“The most important thing is to win as a team,” he said. “So, all I have to do is do all four other apparatus perfectly, without mistake.”

Challenged by China

The Japanese men won the most recent World team title in 2015 and the Olympic gold in 2016. If they hope to hold off an impressive Chinese team that features reigning World champion Xiao Ruoteng and 2017 all-around silver medalist Lin Chaopan, they will need Uchimura as strong as possible.

Uchimura, who has won back-to-back Olympic all-around gold medals, said he hopes to continue on to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“It’s an honor for me to compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Uchimura said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”