In this instalment of Ichimen, newscaster Sakura Sho interviews the gymnast Uchimura Kohei.
With just half a year to go till the Rio 2016 Olympics, Sho interviews Uchimura Kohei, the ‘King of Gymnastics’ who also won gold four years ago at the London Olympics.
With an unprecedented 6 consecutive gold medals at the world championships, Uchimura Kohei stands at the peak of gymnastics.
He is well known for his beautiful gymnastics, and in particular, his perfect, stuck landings.
This time, Sho interviews Uchimura to find out the secret behind the perfect landings.
Sho has interviewed Uchimura twice before in 2008 and 2012. During the last interview 4 years ago, Sho tried an actual gymnastics training equipment. In the screenshot you can see Sho complaining about how high it gets, jumping on the trampoline. (Fun fact: Sakurai Sho is afraid of heights.)
This time, in order to film Uchimura from close up, they prepared a long pole with a camera fixed at the end.
The camera is mounted higher than the 2m 80cm high horizontal bar.
The recording taking place.
Sho: His whole body is straight, right up to the toes.
After watching and filming Uchimura training up close, Sho interviewed Uchimura about the horizontal bar.
Sho: What are you most obsessed about when performing on the horizontal bar?
Uchimura: It’s about always sticking my landings. I endeavour to perform my landings in a way to minimise any point deductions.
They got a doll for Uchimura to demonstrate how he does his landings.
After releasing from the horizontal bar, he does a turn and two twists.
Immediate after the twists are completed, there’s a split second where Uchimura has time to spot the ground and stick his landing.
We take a look at his actual competition footage to find the exact moment… It’s right when he completes his twists and starts to open his arms to prepare for the landing.
Here he’s still doing the twist…
And from this point onwards it’s into the landing. The arms are spread open to reduce the speed and get into position to make a stuck landing.
Uchimura: If this split second isn’t available, then I won’t have the leeway to do a proper landing.
When watching the video of Uchimura’s performance in normal speed, you’d realise that it’s actually really fast. To the untrained eyes, you won’t even be able to spot the transition between the skill and the landing. Uchimura has managed to master the skill of making stuck landings.
Uchimura showed the various gold medals he won over the years.
To Uchimura, the medal he’s most hang up on is the team gold medal.
Uchimura: The gold medals from the individual all around, team, and horizontal bar in the Glasgow world championships.
Sho: Which is the team gold medal?
Uchimura: It’s not written, I guess this one would be ok?
For Uchimura, the team gold medal was the most important medal to him. Even after winning so many individual golds, it was the only team gold he won. He’d been chasing after the team gold medal for years, always coming close but not close enough. Uchimura and the Japan gymnastics team had been in second place for four years before Uchimura’s dream finally came true.
Of course, his next target would be the team gold in the upcoming Rio Olympics. Japan has not won a team gymnastic gold since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Uchimura hopes to change the impression of the general public, from Tomita’s horizontal bars landing at the Athens to his own landing at the coming Rio Olympics. The Athens team gold was Japans first team gymnastics gold medal in 28 years.
The Athens medal left a huge impression on Uchimura, and he hopes that his own generation will be able to make a similar make. Rio would be extremely important for Uchimura, as the captain and ace of the team, he has to lead his teammates along, and it’ll be the most Olympics in which he has the most responsibility.
Uchimura got married in 2012 and has two daughters. He will be 31 during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. His daughters will be 5 and 7 years old during the Tokyo Olympics. He’ll be able to watch his performance and fully understand what’s going on at that age.
Uchimura: They will probably be finding faults (in my performance). Like “Do it properly”, “You were moving during your landing”, “Isn’t it something you are really particular about?”. They would probably say that.
And that ends the interview segment with Uchimura.
Some updates on what happened at the Rio Olympics now that it’s long over. Uchimura did get his wish and Japan did win a team gold medal. Uchimura also managed to hang on to his all around gold medal record, although really just barely. He qualified second, almost 1.6 points behind Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine, and was losing pretty much right up till the last apparatus, the horizontal bars, where Oleg’s performance wasn’t good enough to give him the gold. Uchimura won by 0.099 points over the young Ukrainian, making him the first gymnast in 44 years to win back to back individual all around gold in the Olympics. He also has 6 world championship individual all around golds under his belt, and recently became the first professional gymnast in Japan.
Also check out the list of noteworthy vocabulary from this Ichimen segment here.
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