Olympics: King Kohei set to rule Rio

Agence France-Presse

Simon Biles seems to have the women's section all sewn up

Agence France-Presse |

Latest Articles

Results come in for Hong Kong's pro-democracy primary for upcoming Legislative Council election

Tougher dining rules possible as Hong Kong records at least 50 new Covid-19 cases

SF9’s ‘9loryUS’ album review: K-pop’s new boys have staying power

Can Kohei Uchimura dominate?

Japanese superstar Kohei Uchimura's bid to defend his all-around title and topple men's team holders China, and US teen Simone Biles' quest for women's gold are set to highlight artistic gymnastics at the Rio Games.

Uchimura, 27, and Biles, 19, have dominated the four-year Olympic cycle since London and are overwhelming favourites to finish the Games with all-around gold.

Both will also be looking for further gold in the team and apparatus events in the Rio Olympic Arena from Saturday (August 6, 2016). 

’King Kohei’, considered one of the greatest gymnasts ever, has not been beaten in the all-around since 2009, winning a sixth consecutive world all-around title in Glasgow last year.

He will be competing in his third Olympics in Rio where if he succeeds in defending the all-around title he won in London after taking silver in 2008 he would become the first man to do so since compatriot Sawao Kato in 1972.

Japan's Kohei Uchimura reacts after practicing on the Horizontal bar at the Olympic Arena, the venue of the Artistic gymnastics on August 3, 2016
Photo: Agcene France-Presse

Cuba’s Manrique Larduet will be hoping to follow on his success in Scotland, where at 19 years he challenged the great Uchimura in the all-around to claim silver. China’s Deng Shudi is the world bronze medallist.

In Brazil, Uchimura has said his focus will be on claiming the only gold medal missing from his collection - the Olympic men's team gold.

China have won the last two Olympic men’s titles having beating Japan in 2008 and 2012. But Uchimura helped break China’s domination last year and end Japan’s 37-year wait for the world title. 

China’s 12-year reign ended, as they slipped to third behind Great Britain, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallists, who are also hoping to thwart Uchimura.

China’s 12-year reign ended, as they slipped to third behind Great Britain, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallists, who are also hoping to thwart Uchimura.

China’s Zhang Chenglong, a member of the gold medal winning team in 2012 saw the world defeat as "a warning for us before Rio".

China’s Zhang Chenglong is now the team captain.
Photo: Xinhua

Zhang, 27, has taken over as team leader from Zou Kai, a five-time Olympic gold medallist, who has retired. The four other team members - Liu Yang, Lin Chaopan, You Hao and Deng - are all making their Olympic debuts.

But Britain have been gaining confidence since Louis Smith's medal breakthrough on the pommel horse in Beijing.
"China and Japan have dominated for so many years," said Britain's Kristian Thomas. "We have laid down a marker that they are definitely beatable."

Biles’s incredible journey could reach its pinnacle in Rio after she became the first woman to win three consecutive all-around gold to take her tally to a record ten world women’s titles last year in Glasgow.

Simone Biles at the US Olympic gymnastics trials in San Jose, California in June.
Photo: Agence France-Presse

The dynamic young Texan gymnast, who was adopted by her grandparents when she was a toddler as her mother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, has pushed the limits of the sport and has not lost a competition in more than three years.

Small and powerful, Biles excels on the floor and the beam, and has proved unbeatable in the all-around where she won a duel in Glasgow with compatriot Gabby Douglas, the reigning Olympic champion, who took a two-year break and had to settle for world silver.

Biles arrives in Brazil full of confidence ahead of her first Olympics with five world medals - gold in the team, all-around, beam and floor and bronze on the vault.

Douglas, 20, the first black gymnast to win an Olympic gold in 2012, showed signs of weakness during US trials in July, having changed coach two weeks prior.

She nevertheless made the team to become the first reigning all-around gold medallist to return to the next Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

Both Biles and Douglas will work together in a bid to keep the team gold in the US women’s hands, after winning the world title in 2014 and 2015.

USA's Gabby Douglas nails the floor exercise at the Olympic trials in San Jose.
Photo: USA Today Sports

The five-woman US team also includes Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez and Aly Raisman - the 2012 floor exercise gold medallist.

In London, Russia were runners-up to the United States and will be spearheaded by Aliya Mustafina, the bronze medallist in 2012. But Romania, bronze medallists in 2012, will not have a full women's team at the Olympics, having failed to qualify.

China, long dogged by allegations of fielding underage gymnasts, will be lead by Shang Chunsong, 20, also a challenger for the women's all-around title.

China won the women’s team title for the first time in 2008 but finished off the podium in London.