Uchimura Kohei attempts new skill but finishes sixth on return to competition
Japanese gymnast scores 14.200 on the horizontal bar at All-Japan Senior Championships, his first event in over a year
The 31-year-old three-time Olympic champion, who decided to become a horizontal bar specialist as he works toward the Tokyo 2020 Games, performed the Bretschneider for the first time in official competition as he took part in the All-Japan Senior and Masters Championships.
Though he caught the bar on the difficult double-twisting catch and release move, he did not have enough momentum to complete his swing over the bar afterward, causing him to go the wrong way. Uchimura regrouped quickly to land his dismount cleanly and although he received warm applause from the limited number of spectators present at the Takasaki Arena in Gunma Prefecture, he was visibly unhappy with his routine, frowning at his performance.
He finished sixth on the event, more than a point behind event winner Miyachi Hidetaka. In the overall standings, Kaya Kazuma took the gold at 86.998, followed by Tanigawa Wataru (85.965). Chiba Kenta rounded out the podium in third, totalling 85.166.
Murakami back in form
Murakami Mai, the 2017 World floor exercise champion and 2018 World all-around silver medallist, topped the women's standings with an impressive 56.600 total. The 24-year-old is making her way back from a disappointing 2019 where a back injury in the early part of the season kept her out of the Japanese World team selection events.
She looked strong in today's all-around final on her signature event, the floor exercise, where she opened with a double-twisting double back flip and double layout in back-to-back tumbling passes. She scored a 14.000. Her highest mark of the day came on the vault where she posted a 14.900 for her double twisting Yurchenko. She rounded out her day with scores of 13.900, uneven bars, and 13.800, balance beam.
Hiraiwa Yuna finished second to Murakami at 54.632, while Hatakeda Hitomi posted a 54.366 for third.
The competition also saw the return of 2012 and 2016 Olympian Teramoto Asuka, whose torn Achilles tendon earlier this year seemed likely to have kept her out of the Tokyo Games until they were postponed. She competed on the uneven bars only and earned a 13.966.
Uchimura had been meant to make his return at a competition he organises, the Kohei Uchimura Cup, back in mid-March.
However, the competition had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Then, in summer, Uchimura said he would not compete in the all-around – the event in which he is two-time defending Olympic champion – in the future, due to continuing pain and harm to his shoulders.
Speaking to the Olympic Channel then, he said focussing on the horizontal bar meant he suffered less pain, to the extent of being pain-free for the first time since the Rio 2016 Games.
Tokyo 2020 push
The 10-time world champion is attempting to qualify for his fourth Olympic Games.
In addition to his two individual all-around Olympic titles, he was also part of Japan's gold-medal-winning team in Rio.
Each country may send two individuals to compete on selected apparatus only outside of the new four-member all-around teams that will participate in Tokyo next year.
Japan's selection policy remains unclear, but Uchimura will be aiming for one of the two spots.
He'll have to perform better than he did in Gunma, however.