Kakeru Tanigawa

Is Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura done with gymnastics? Maybe not.

Oh, the shifting fortunes of Japanese men’s gymnastics!

The talented Kakeru Tanigawa won the prestigious NHK Cup -- and a spot on Japan’s men’s world team -- Sunday in Tokyo, scoring a respectable 84.098 in the all-around. That score, added to his scores from capturing his second Japanese national title last month (where he averaged around 85 points in the all-around) easily gave the 20-year-old the NHK title, only 0.2 ahead of his older and slightly better known brother Wataru.

Kakeru Tanigawa earned his second Japanese at

Kakeru Tanigawa earned his second Japanese at

Kazuma Kaya, the 2015 world bronze medalist on pommel horse, finished third in the NHK rankings. All three have qualified to compete as part of Japan’s world team for October’s World Championships in Stuttgart, the last major global event before the Tokyo Olympic Games, with two more to be added closer to the event.

The younger Tanigawa’s accolades, which include being Japan’s youngest ever national champion, have gone a bit under the radar due to the star power of Japan’s men’s team, led by two-time Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura and twistmaster Kenzo Shirai.

But recent results have thrown the established hierarchy into turmoil: Uchimura came to last month’s Japanese Championships injured and had the worst meet of his career, falling several times to finish 37th, missing the cut for the all-around final for the first time since his debut as a 16-year-old in 2005. A photo of Uchimura clutching his left shoulder in agony after a fall off the parallel bars remains the enduring image of the competition.

Kohei agony.JPG

Shirai, dealing with a foot injury, didn’t fare much better, finishing 30th all-around, or dead last among the finalists. Uchimura did not compete Sunday, though not exactly by choice: only the top 30 in the all-around from the Japanese Championships qualified to compete at the NHK Cup.

This is a strange turn of events for the Japanese, and gives them an unusual problem to deal with as their first home Summer Olympics in 56 years approaches. Shirai and especially Uchimura have underpinned the team with fabulous results and incredible performances. But Uchimura, now 30, and Shirai, now struggling with an injury that limits him on his best events, are no longer the ones delivering the highest quality performances -- not even close -- though they remain among the faces of the sport.

So if you’re deciding who you put on your world and Olympic teams, where do they factor in?

Uchimura may make it easier to solve the problem than it seems. Saying he finished in 37th place at the Japanese Championships smarts, but the reality is that he only trailed Tanigawa by five points. Had he simply stayed on the apparatus, he’d have at least three of those points back, which would have stood him in the middle of the pack among the finalists. From there, it’s a much smaller jump to being among the major team contenders.

“I don’t have any feelings of frustration,” Uchimura told the media afterwards. Training before the event had not gone particularly well either, it seems. “I mentioned a few times that you can’t compete what you can’t do in training, yet I somehow fell into that situation.”

With two Olympic all-around titles and GOAT status, Uchimura has already lived a thrilling life in gymnastics. His is a rare career even by the standards of the great champions. All that he needs to pad his legend now is a nice comeback tale, and with his results this spring, he’s certainly given himself the opportunity for that.

Quick hits: DTB Pokal, Men's Team Final

The podium finishers gather for a selfie at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart. Photo courtesy EnBW DTB Pokal.

The podium finishers gather for a selfie at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart. Photo courtesy EnBW DTB Pokal.

Rotation 1:

Ivan Stretovich (RUS), floor: HIt routine included running double front tuck mount, 2.5 to front 2/1 and triple full with a step to the side. The 2016 Olympian has grown a good deal and gotten quite lanky.

Lukas Dauser (GER), HB: Hit routine with great double double layout dismount.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), HB: Terrific routine, capped with stuck full twisting double layout dismount. The 2010 Youth Olympic medalist has impeccable form and actually swings with artistry, if that’s possible to do.

Kenta Chiba (JPN), FX: Double front half twist, with the half twist done after the first somersault, unusual. 1.5 to Randi, OOB. 2.5 to Rudi. Double full. Triple full, small hop to the side.

Dmitry Lankin , floor: Triple back, bounds backward. 3.5 to front half. Quad twist. 2.5 to front 2/1. Rudi.

Rotation 2:

Niccolo Mozzato (ITA), FX: Very high double double tuck, stuck. Front 2/1 to front tuck 1/1. 2.5 to Rudi. Double full. Triple full. 13.933.

Kakeru Tanigawa, (JPN), PH: Falls halfway through.

Felix Remuta (GER), FX: Double front pike half out, shuffle backward. Front 2/1 to Randi. 2.5 to front full, nearly goes OOB. Double double tuck. Rudi. Triple full, step back. 14.4.

Alexander Chicherov (RUS), PH: Off.

Thierno Diallo (ESP), FX: Randi. Double front. Front 2/1 to Rudi. 2.5 to front layout. Double full. Triple full. 13.733.

Niccola Bertolini (ITA), FX: Front double pike, wow that’s high. Double double tuck. 1.5 to front double full. A very good routine. He flutters his hand over his heart as he walks off the floor -- it made him nervous, this routine! Sidenote: Bertolini might be the most heavily tattooed man in gymnastics.

Kenta Chiba (JPN), PH: Some labored circles here and there, but he stayed on.13.933.

Nick Klessing (GER), FX: Double front half out tucked. Good landing. Front double pike. Front 1/1 to double front, saved by his very strong quads and several hops back.

Rotation 3:

Niels Dunkel (GER), PH: Cheered on (and carried through) this routine by the crowd. Makes it without falling.

Andreas Toba (GER), PH: Powers through, hit routine. 13.466.

Dmitry Lankin (RUS), SR: HIt routine, good strength parts, double double tuck dismount that he fights to stick and finally takes a step.

Ludovico Edalli (ITA), PH: Sweet routine. 13.6.

Rotation 4:

Caio Souza (BRA), VT: Tsuk 2.5, lands off to the right and has to take a big step forward.

Kakeru Tanigawa (JPN), VT: Undercooks a Tsuk triple and stumbles to the side, actually going off the mat and crashing into the signboard in front of the judges table.

Andreas Toba (GER), SR: Excellent routine, capped with stuck full twisting double layout. 14.266.

Ivan Stretovich (RUS), VT: Tsuk 2.5, small hop back. 14.466.

Arthur Zanetti (BRA), VT: Serviceable handspring double front.

Marco Sarrugerio (ITA), SR: A very rare fall on rings -- undercooked a handstand, tried valiently to hold it, and couldn’t. Jumps off and rechalks. Nice front double pike dismount.

Kenta Chiba (JPN), VT: Tsuk triple, big step to the side.

Nick Klessing (GER), SR: Pull to cross, planche. Front giant. Pikes and tucked Yamas to Maltese. And ooh, triple back dismount! Very nice. Klessing veritably dances off the mat!

Rotation 5:

Luca Lino Garza (ITA), VT: Tsuk 2.5 with a hop forward.

Shogo Nonomura (JPN), PB: Front flip. Inside Diamidov. Peach half, peach. Double tuck. Giant. Tippelt. Stutz. Double pike with a hop forward. Very nice. 14.7.

Felix Remuta (GER), VT: Makes the handspring double front look easy. Half twist, Felix? 14.033.

Nikita Ignatyev (RUS), PB: Giant, Tippelt. Double tuck. Inside Diamidov. Stutz. Double front hlaf out tucked. 14.166.

Nestor Abad (ESP), VT: Tsuk double full, hop. Great except for the hop from Spain’s veteran.

Bernardo Miranda (BRA), PB: Peach half, peach. Tippelt. Bhavsar. Double front with a hop. Nice lines for this event.

Niccola Bertolini (ITA), VT: 14.566 for his vault has him doing a little victory dance in the mixed zone.

Nick Klessing (GER), VT: Handspring double front, excellent, just a step forward.

Rotation 6:

Niels Dunkel (GER), PB: Lovely set. Niels is thrilled.

Fuya Maeno (JPN), HB: The best Tak half in the business. Wow. And stuck double double layout

Marco Sarrugerio (ITA), PB: Inside Diamidov to front straddle somie. Bhavsar. Giant to Tippelt. His elbows are naturally hyperextended, which make his handstands even nicer. Double pike with a hop.

Nikita Ignatyev (RUS), HB: Cassina. Kolman. Tak skills. One arm giant. Yama. Hop full. Stuck double double layout. Very nice routine!

Lukas Dauser (GER), PB: Germany’s PB artist at work. A strong and beautiful routine. Double front half out dismount, stuck cold. Lukas loves it. 13.966

Results

1 - Russia, 170.995
2 - Germany 1, 168.162
3 - Japan, 168.065
4 - Brazil, 166.263
5 - Italy, 162.897
6 - Spain, 157.897