Shock as Injured Uchimura Out of Worlds
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Japan's Kohei Uchimura's quest for a seventh consecutive world all-around title ended shortly after it began Monday during qualification at the 2017 World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal after he was injured on vault.

Japan's Kohei Uchimura's quest for a seventh consecutive world all-around title ended shortly after it began Monday during qualification at the 2017 World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal.

After taking just a small hop on his Li Xiaopeng vault in the second rotation, the 28-year-old Uchimura turned to bow to the judges and then stopped to inspect his left ankle as he walked off the mat. After a few steps, he stopped again and grabbed his ankle, and then limped back and forth, seeming unsure what to do as medical support team came to his aid and eventually helped him off the podium.


Uchimura after his vault

After treatment on his ankle, Uchimura pushed forward to parallel bars, but there was no question he was injured as he limped to the apparatus. His pain on landing his double pike dismount was obvious, as was the choice to withdraw as he hopped across the podium, giving a shrug to his coach.

After scratching from high bar and floor exercise, Uchimura tried to still compete on pommel horse, but the pain was too much. On crutches, Uchimura later spoke to the media, apologizing to his fans and his teammates for withdrawing. He also vowed to make a full comeback.

Since finishing second at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Uchimura has dominated the sport like no gymnast, male or female, in history. Dubbed "Superman" and "King Kohei," there are few who argue Kohei Uchimura isn't the greatest gymnast the world has ever seen. He has been undefeated in all-around finals since Beijing, racking up six consecutive world all-around titles and back-to-back Olympic crowns in 2012 and 2016. In 2011, he became the first male gymnast to win three world all-around titles, matching the record set by Russian Svetlana Khorkina (1997, 2001, 2003). In 2013, Uchimura won an unprecedented fourth world all-around title, followed by a fifth in 2014 and a sixth in 2015.

Despite suffering from shoulder, back and ankle injuries over the years, Uchimura has hardly taken a break, remaining undefeated as well at domestic meets in Japan. Except for the world championships and Olympic Games, he rarely competes in international competition, but competes at all the major domestic competitions in Japan, where he represents the KONAMI club. According to Japanese media, he has secured 40 consecutive victories since winning the All-Japan Championship in November 2008.

Uchimura's victory last summer was his narrowest yet, defeating Ukrainian Oleg Vernyayev by a mere .099 in a thrilling Olympic all-around final in Rio de Janeiro. With the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, there was no talk of retirement for Uchimura and he initially planned to become an event specialist, leaving an undefeated legacy. But he soon shelved his plans and decided to continue in the all-around, aiming for yet another unprecedented victory in Montreal.

Cuban Manrique Larduet (86.699), second to Uchimura in Glasgow, leads the all-around qualification after three of four subdivisions of qualification. China's Xiao Ruoteng (86.297) is second ahead of Russia's David Belyavsky (85.839). Japan's Kenzo Shirai is fourth (85.697) but would have been first if he had not fallen from high bar, while Vernyayev is in fifth (85.431).

Whether or not Uchimura could win yet again in Montreal was the most exciting storyline of these world championships. But with his absence from the all-around final, two things are now certain: there will be a new men's world champion for the first time in eight years, and Kohei Uchimura will remain undefeated. King Kohei won't be dethroned, but for now at least, he has abdicated his crown.

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