A Young Kohei Uchimura Wasn’t a Gymnastics Legend Yet | Before They Were Superstars

a rising star of his sport and many believed
that the 21-year-old could become one of the
greatest gymnasts of all time. Physical strength is
very important in gymnastics. Young gymnasts
have more strength… ..so that can be an advantage. At this stage of his career, Kōhei was living
and training in Tokyo. He’d taken up gymnastics
at the age of three. The Sydney Olympics
took place during my fifth year
at elementary school. Naoya Tsukahara was
competing at those games and I remember
wishing I could be like him. Kōhei was coached by former
gymnast, Yoshiaki Hatakeda, at the Nippon Sport
Science University in Tokyo. He can express movement
that he visualises in his head. He has a great ability to
do this compared to other gymnasts. His sense of aerial positioning and his overall
feel is outstanding. Kōhei made his Olympic debut
at the 2008 Games in Beijing. He surprised many by
winning two silver medals. It was my first Olympics
and I was still a teenager who didn’t really
know what was going on. I practised hard,
but I don’t think people expected
too much from me. Back in the 1960s and ’70s,
men’s Artistic Gymnastics had undergone
a golden age in Japan, but the success and
popularity of the sport had waned in
the years that followed. Kōhei hoped to change all that. The Japanese team
are not yet performing at a world-class level. We aren’t yet recognised
as the best team in the world. Everyone already
recognises Uchimura’s ability as a world-class gymnast. I want him to continue
putting in top performances so everyone
agrees that he is great. My best event is the floor. It has been my favourite
ever since I was small. It is my big strength. At the 2012 London Olympics, Kōhei would become
the first Japanese man to claim the All-Around
gold medal for 28 years. He successfully defended that
title four years later in Rio. My biggest goal is to stand on the top step of the podium
at the London Olympics. That’s my aim.

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