Uchimura, Biles target more gold as Olympics loom

 22 Oct 2015 - 8:48

Uchimura, Biles target more gold as Olympics loom

Glasgow: Japanese superstar Kohei Uchimura and American Simone Biles will be looking to reap more gold in the pre-Olympic World Gymnastics Championships starting in Glasgow on Friday.

Gymnasts can secure qualification for the 2016 Rio Games at the championships which will be staged at the Hydro Arena from October 23 to November 1.

Uchimura, dubbed 'King Kohei', will not only be bidding for a sixth consecutive men's all-around title but his first team gold with Japan, as 18-year-old Biles seeks an unprecedented third straight women's all-around title.

Uchimura, who is particularly strong on floor and parallel bars, has won five Olympic medals including the 2012 all-around gold, and 16 world medals -- seven in gold.

The only gold missing from the 26-year-old's collection is the team title with the Chinese men dominating with ten of the last 11 world titles.

The Asian rivals have battled over the past eight years with China winning two Olympic gold medals ahead of Japan and last year's world title decided by just one tenth of a point.

"All I'm looking at is winning team gold," insisted Uchimura as Japan target a first team gold in 37 years.

Prior to travelling to Glasgow, Uchimura trained at the same venue in France as before the London Olympics.

"Training in France I completed all the disciplines with no mistakes so my condition's pretty good," he said.

Teammate Ryohei Kato, however, is struggling to recover from a left ankle injury.

"It's about 80 or 90 percent there," he told Japanese media after practicing in Glasgow.

"It should be ready in time. I'm using a thicker mat for landing in training and I don't feel pain."

-- New women's record --

Biles will be looking to become the first woman to win three straight titles and help the US women defend their team title.

"Everyone tells me about it but I never think of it that way," said Biles of the record.

"I just go in and try to do as much for the team as I can and then hopefully if I make the all-around final then we'll go from there. But I think it would be pretty cool (to win a third title)."

The powerful US women's team can count on returning stars including reigning Olympic all-around and team gold medallist Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, also 2012 Olympic floor and team gold medallist.

"It brings out the best in all of us," said Biles of the challenge.

Raisman added: "It's less than a year out (from the Olympics). As a team we look really strong and hopefully better than ever. We're all in a good spot right now."

China took silver last year but will be without injured Yao Jinnan with Russia, bronze medallists in Nanning also hit by the absence of Aliya Mustafina, a former world all-around champion.

Olympic all-around silver medallist Viktoria Komova however will be making a comeback after missing the 2014 worlds due to health problems.

"We have installed new names both in both the men's and women's squads," said Russian gymnastics federation chief Vasily Titov.

"It's a serious test for our athletes to select those who will represent Russia at the Olympics."

Romanian Larisa Iordache, who won silver behind Biles last year, could also challenge, although she has dealt with an ankle injury since.

-- 'Brutally strong' --

Hosts Great Britain have four London 2012 medal winners -- Louis Smith, Max Whitlock, Kristian Thomas and Daniel Purvis -- in the men's team.

Claudia Fragapane is in the women's line-up, returning to the arena where she won four Commonwealth gold medals.

Germany are also targeting a top eight finish to book their Olympic berth with former horizontal bars world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Fabian Hambuechen leading their charge.

Hambuechen predicts a ferocious battle for the all-around title. 

"There are a lot of brutally strong gymnasts," said the 27-year-old.

For teammate Marcel Nguyen, a place on the podium in the all-round event is not on his radar a year after his cruciate ligament injury.

"My goal is to get through the exercises for the team," said the 28-year-old from Munich, who won Olympic silver medal in the all-around and bars in 2012.

Yang Hak-Seon, who won South Korea's first ever Olympic gold in the vault competition in London in 2012, will miss the Glasgow trip with a hamstring injury.

The top eight teams receive an automatic berth for the 2016 Rio Olympics with ninth to 16th placed teams competing at a test event in Rio in April.

 

AFP