Posts Tagged ‘Mitsuo Tsukahara’

12 days of up-and-coming gymnasts, day two

December 24, 2008

Kohei Uchimura/UK Eurosport

Kohei Uchimura/UK Eurosport


Kohei Uchimura, Japan: If he stays healthy, I’m betting the Olympic silver medalist is the 2009 World all-around champion. See his picture in the dictionary under “complete package gymnast.”

This one is a no-brainer. Barring career-ending injury, this guy’s going to be a star. He’s already a star. He’s going to become a bigger one. And he’s not even 20.

Sorely needed right now in Japan, too, given the retirements of longstanding Japanese stars Hiroyuki Tomita and Takehiro Kashima.

Kohei’s sister, Haruchi Uchimura, is also a gymnast.

Time Magazine’s take:

If he wasn’t on the trampoline at home, he was doing long jumps into the sand pit at school. Uchimura trained with Athens gold medalist Naoya Tsukahara. When asked what attracts him to gymnastics, Uchimura has said he simply “likes twisting and turning.” His renowned coach, Koji Gushiken, says Uchimura excels at floor and vault due to his quick turning speed and sense of positioning, which helped him to win a gold medal in floor as a freshman at the World Student Games.

What struck me most during the Olympic Games was Uchimura’s humility, the way he bowed to the judges before and after vaulting during the Olympic all-around. Deeply respectful, and thoroughly respectable.

Kohei Uchimura, 2008 Olympic Games Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

Mitsuo Tsukahara on Kohei Uchimura: ‘Sooner or later, Uchimura will have his era, not only in Japan, but also in the world…” — via Hiroyuki & Kohei Fan Cafe

Apparently he hates vegetables and doesn’t have a girlfriend. One internet source says his parents own a gym in Nagasaki and young Kohei got his start bouncing on the gym’s trampoline. As his star rises, so will his public profile.

The best male gymnast of all time?

February 11, 2008

Belarus' Vitaly Scherbo is considered one of the best male gymnasts of all time.The best female gymnast of all time question is debated on message boards here and there, but Amy Van Deusen, an International Gymnast Magazine correspondent who recently launched About.com’s gymnastics website, is the first I’ve seen to examine men’s gymnastics in the same way.

In the women’s category, the answer flits between Nadia Comaneci (first perfect 10 in Olympic competition) and Lilia Podkopayeva (one of the most “total package” gymnasts of all time, who was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame last week) Lavinia Milosovici, a highly consistent and successful Romanian from 1992 to 1996 and Russian Svetlana Khorkina, who is known for her longevity, daring, unique skills and high temper, might also deserve honorable mentions.

On about.com, Van Deusen throws out some likely candidates: Valeri Liukin (first ever triple back on floor), Nikolai Andrianov (lifted the Soviet men’s team from obscurity to world dominance during the 1970s) and Mitsuo Tsukahara, the Japanese innovator who introduced the Tsukahara vault and won five Olympic gold medals.

Van Deusen’s vote goes to Belarus’ Vitaly Sherbo, who won a whopping six gold medals at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Hard to argue with that. As a gymnast, Sherbo had it all — great form, great power and an innovativeness that was expressed on all events, particularly vault and still rings. He also had an “it” factor that was almost uncomparable.

And unlike some of the sport’s greats, he didn’t retire immediately after achieving the pinnacle of Olympic success. He returned to training months before the 1996 Olympics after quitting to be with his wife Irina, who lapsed into a coma after a devastating car accident.

His comeback story includes four bronze medals in Atlanta, which seemed reflective of his limited preparation time but not lack of skill.

Vitaly Sherbo, 1994 World Championships, Vault: