Don't compare Hashimoto to me, says gymnastics legend Uchimura

Kitakyushu (Japan) (AFP) –


Japan's new gymnastics king Daiki Hashimoto is his own man, legendary veteran Kohei Uchimura said Wednesday, urging the Tokyo Olympics double gold medallist to ignore comparisons.

Hashimoto announced himself to the world in spectacular fashion this summer, winning the all-around and horizontal bar titles at his first Olympics, just days short of his 20th birthday.

Hashimoto claimed the all-around title that countryman Uchimura had captured at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, sparking inevitable comparisons with the 32-year-old "King Kohei".

But Uchimura thinks Hashimoto should be considered a champion in his own right, and believes he has a glittering future in the sport.

"I'm sure he'll be compared to me a lot, but I hope he doesn't pay attention to that," said Uchimura, who chose not to defend his all-around title at the Tokyo Games because of shoulder trouble.

"I want Daiki Hashimoto to take Daiki Hashimoto's path, and show people his own gymnastic performances."

Hashimoto and Uchimura are both competing at the world championships this week in Kitakyushu, the western Japanese city where Uchimura was born.

Hashimoto is aiming to win his first world title, and jumped into the all-around qualifying lead after an assured performance on Wednesday morning.

"I'm going into this competition as the Olympic champion, but I have to throw away the pride I take in that," said Hashimoto.

"It's given me confidence though, and that's a good thing."

- 'There's only regret' -

Uchimura, meanwhile, is aiming for redemption after his bid for a fourth Olympic medal at the Tokyo Games ended in disaster.

Uchimura entered only the horizontal bar competition in a bid to preserve his strength, but fell in qualifying and failed to make the final.

Gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura is looking for redemption at the world championships after failing to qualify for the Olympic final
Gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura is looking for redemption at the world championships after failing to qualify for the Olympic final Philip FONG AFP

He will compete only on the horizontal bar again this week in Kitakyushu, and the memory of his Olympic slip is still driving him.

"There's only regret," Uchimura said.

"But it's precisely because of that regret that I was able to perform properly today. When you think about it that way, that mistake had to happen."

Uchimura has won 10 world championship golds and 21 medals overall.

He won the world all-around title at every event between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and is widely considered to be the best male gymnast of all time.

But time is ticking on his storied career, and some have speculated he may bring the curtain down after competing in his home city this week.

"I'm still not thinking about it," Uchimura said when asked on Wednesday.

"I don't know what will happen until the competition is over. I'll see how I feel when it's over, and then maybe an answer will come. I might feel like I want to keep going."

Hashimoto, on the other hand, is just getting started.

He is confident he can carry his Olympic form into this week's competition, and he is excited to compete alongside Uchimura.

"I really look up to him," Hashimoto said.

"I wasn't able to compete against him at the Olympics, but now we're at the world championships and it's in our home country as well. I hope we can both put on a good show."