Japanese gymnastics legend Uchimura retires at 33

Japanese gymnastics legend Uchimura retires at 33

Japan's Kohei Uchimura has retired from gymnastics at the age of 33
Japan's Kohei Uchimura has retired from gymnastics at the age of 33

TOKYO - Two-time Olympic gymnastics all-around champion Kohei Uchimura has retired aged 33, his management said Tuesday, ending the career of one of the sport's all-time greats.

Uchimura claimed gold at the 2012 and 2016 Games, won the Olympic team title with Japan in Rio and was crowned all-around world champion six times.

But he suffered disappointment in his Olympic swansong, falling off the horizontal bar and failing to reach the final at last year's Tokyo Games.

Uchimura's final competition was at the world championships last October in Kitakyushu, the city where he was born.

He finished sixth in the horizontal bar final but was given a rapturous reception by the home crowd after sticking a textbook landing from his dismount.

He told AFP after that event that he would take time to consider his next move, but acknowledged there was "a new generation emerging" in gymnastics.

Revered in Japan, Uchimura was also a crowd favourite because of his easy-going personality and love of chocolate.

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

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

He then became the first man in 44 years to win back-to-back Olympic all-around golds, in 2012 and 2016, and also claimed the world title every year in between.

But shoulder injuries began to take their toll and in 2019 he described his chances of appearing at the Tokyo Games as "a fairytale".

He took radical action by dropping every event but the horizontal bar, and went on to book his place at his home Olympics.

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