Gymnast ‘King’ Kohei Uchimura announces his retirement

Two-time Olympic all-around champion Kohei Uchimura announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending the career of one of the best male gymnasts of all time.

Nicknamed “King Kohei” in Japan, Uchimura won a total of seven Olympic medals – including three gold – in Beijing, London and Rio, but left empty-handed from the Tokyo Games last year.

The 33-year-old has announced his decision to retire through his management company. No further details were immediately available, but local media said Uchimura would hold a press conference in the near future.

Uchimura won all all-around world and Olympic titles from 2009 to 2016. He became the first man in 44 years to step onto the individual all-around podium at back-to-back Olympics with a biting final at the Rio 2016 Games.

But as age and injuries took their toll, Uchimura decided at the end of 2019 to focus on the horizontal bar to be part of the Japan squad for their fourth Olympics.

Proud to have competed in the Games at home, his Olympic career came to an abrupt end in Tokyo when he lost his grip on the bar and crashed to the ground, failing to advance to the final.

He said at the time: “In the last three Olympics I’ve been to, I’ve always been able to bring out in competition what I’ve practiced, but I can’t do it anymore.

“I’m past my prime. I just have to take it calmly.

“Honestly, I feel like I gave it my all. I think I was able to convey the wonder of gymnastics to the spectators.

Uchimura’s final competition was at the World Championships last October in Kitakyushu, the Japanese city where he was born.

He was sixth in the final on the horizontal bar, but received an enthusiastic reception from the local crowd after pasting a landing manual of his descent.

He said after this event that he would take the time to consider his next move, but acknowledged that there was an “emerging new generation” in gymnastics.

Revered in Japan, Uchimura was also a public favorite due to his laid back personality and love of chocolate.

At the Rio Games in 2016, he made headlines by racking up a ¥ 500,000 ($ 4,500) phone bill playing Pokemon Go, the popular mobile game.

But he was strictly commercial when it came to competition, winning silver in the all-around and team events on his Olympic debut in 2008.

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