Kohei Uchimura: The Life of an Olympian Gymnast

The Life of Kohei Uchimura

His Life and his childhood

Kohei Uchimura is born on January 3, 1989, in the Nagasaki Prefecture of Japan. He came from a background and family of gymnasts who are always there to support his dreams and passions of becoming a professional athlete. His parents namely Kazuhisa Uchimura and Shuko Uchimura were both competitive gymnasts in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He has a younger sister named Haruhi Uchimura who is also a competitive gymnast.

Rick McCharles [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What is interesting about it is that gymnastics came about his life so naturally that he seemed to have a natural talent for it. Some people may call it purely genetic, but it seems that he was born with his passion and love for gymnastics. He started training formally at the young age of three.

He started competing professionally in junior divisions at the young age of 15. This was the time where he moved to Tokyo to train under the wings of award-winning gymnast Naoya Tsukahara. He was very hardworking and focused even for his young age and proved to his coaches that he could easily reach his goals. His first official competition was the 2005 International Junior Competition.

Early Education and Career

He started competing professionally in 2007 when he joined the National Gymnastics team of Japan. During this year as well, he joined the 2007 Paris World Cup where he won a bronze on the vault event. During his first year as a professional, he was able to join a number of events and world championships. This included the Good Luck Beijing event, Japan’s National Championships, and the 2007 Summer Universiade. Although he did not win any gold individually, his team was able to place remarkably in these events. During the early years of his career, his father used to coach him. There are actually photos and videos shared by fans of an angry coach (his father) training a younger Kohei Uchimura.

Kohei Uchimura Wife and Children

Unlike other athletes from Japan, Kohei Uchimura enjoys talking about his family during interviews. He shares about how well his wife (married in 2012) takes great care of him and his two young daughters. He also expresses his gratitude for his wife’s never-ending support during his competitions. He explains as well that he is pretty happy that his children express their desire to become gymnasts as well. On the other hand, he explains that his experience does not tell him much about gymnastics for women and is reluctant to personally train his young daughters.

Rising Olympic Gymnast

Beijing Olympics 2008

This was the first time the Uchimura was selected to represent Japan in the Olympic games as a member of the national team. What is impressive is that he significantly contributed to the team’s silver status after competing for multiple events like a high bar, parallel bars, vault, and floor. Impressively, he won the silver medal for the all-around final placing after Yang Wei of China. He also placed fifth in the floor exercise final.

London Olympics 2012

Despite a rocky start, the London Olympics in 2012 became one of his most notable battlegrounds. He suffered a few falls during the pommel horse. However, these initial falls did not hinder him from getting the prize. He became a six-time medallist in this particular event after placing silver in the floor exercises and gold in the all-around division. This win makes him one of the most impressive (and youngest) Japanese Olympic gold medallist for gymnastics. He also contributed to putting Japan’s team in second place overall.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016

During this time, Kohei Uchimura was already a household name in the gymnastics industry worldwide. He was a fierce competitor and many gymnasts are reluctant to compete against the ‘world’s best gymnast’. With his charisma, talent, and hard work, he won his second and third Olympic gold. He placed first in the all-around final and this win pulled the Japan team to the overall first place. He is the first gymnast to ever win back-to-back all-around gold medals in the Olympic games.

Lulubon [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Tokyo Olympics 2020

With his age and his injury, he has expressed in 2015 that he is thinking about limiting his focus on only one or two events. He is not planning, although it is still unclear, to become an all-arounder in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. It is also unclear if he will still be chosen to represent, but it seems that officials are set about him joining the national team of Japan.

Gymnastic Events He Performs For

Basically, gymnastics is a very complicated sport that requires intense training and focus. It involves balance, coordination, and incredible flexibility. There are a variety of artistic events for gymnastics and it varies for men and women. The common events include the vault and floor exercises. Artistic events exclusively for men include the pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars, and horizontal bars.

Parallel Bars – In this particular event, the gymnast executes and exhibits his talent in balancing on two bars through a series of movements, tumbles, and swings. This particular event requires over-all strength and coordination. It also a great show of balance and concentration.

Kohei Uchimura Floor Exercise – This is probably one of the most artistic out of all events in gymnastics. This is where the entire mat is the stage and gymnasts will exhibit leaps, jumps, tumblings, and more. There are also dance elements and acrobatics in this routine. For men, it includes handstands, circles, and the like.

Kohei Uchimura High Bar – The horizontal bar (or high bar) is a long and thick steel bar which is raised about 2.5 meters from the landing area. Gymnasts are supposed to be able to perform swings and twists on this steel bar without falling. The finale also involves a giant yet flawless leap or dismount to the mat on the floor.

Kohei Uchimura Rings - The Still Rings is also one of the most difficult events in gymnastics. It involves being suspended on rings which are supported by wire cables at a standard height of 5.75 meters from the floor. The goal of this event is to be able to perform a variety of movements and swings without allowing the actual rings to move. As a finale, the gymnast must be able to dismount (or leap) flawlessly to the mat below.

Agência Brasil Fotografias [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Vault – In this particular event, there is a runway of about 25 meters long and a springboard to the end. The gymnast will sprint before using the springboard as a means of pushing the body upwards into a somersault and multiple twists before landing effortlessly in standing position. This may probably be one of the most difficult events in gymnastics and requires speed, agility, and strength.

General Profile

Kohei Uchimura Height – Kohei Uchimura is about 1.61 meters in height, which is around the perfect range of typical gymnasts in Japan. Other famous gymnasts around that height would be Kenzo Shirai at 1.61 meters and Yusuke Tanaka at 1.66 meters. For men who are taller than this, it is still possible to do a variety of events in gymnastics but there will be some added obstacles due to the height.

Kohei Uchimura Age – Currently, Kohei Uchimura is around 29 years of age. He started training as a gymnast at a young age of three and started to compete professionally at the age of 15. This means that he has been receiving formal training for 26 years and had been competing for 14. There is no news so far when Kohei Uchimura will retire but it is definite that Japan will still see him in world championship arenas in the years to come.

Kohei Uchimura Diet

Many people say that the key to a successful athletic journey is discipline and hard work. For Kohei Uchimura, it is training and diet, on the other hand. He believes that the more he practices, the more edge he will gain against younger and more innovative competitors he will meet in the stage. However, one of the most interesting (and probably challenging) aspects of his discipline is the fact that he only eats ONE MEAL every day.

This particular diet is not necessarily shared by many athletes around the world. In fact, it is not exactly encouraged by nutritionists as well. He admits that he only eats real meals in the evening, which comes after rigorous exercise and training throughout the day. He exclaimed that he mostly drinks coffee and water to go through the day before his “Big Meal”. Or at times, he supplements himself with protein drinks or protein shakes.

Being fit and light is not the reason why Uchimura decides to eat only this one meal every day. He explains that his activity as a gymnast requires intense movements from all over his body, involving tumbles, spins, and somersaults. These are not necessarily an easy feat for a full stomach. He admits that there are times where he gets sick when training with something churning around on his stomach. So, he chooses to be “empty” until he fully rests for the day. He also admits that he rarely eats vegetables.

Kohei Uchimura Famous Injury

Dubbed as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, Kohei Uchimura is near perfect. He is precise and quick about his movements. This may be one of the reasons why he rarely experienced injuries in the earlier parts of his career. However, in 2017, Uchimura suffered from an ankle injury that has stopped him from actually winning back-to-back medals and awards. It has also stopped his eight-year streak as the world’s best gymnast.

It appears that Uchimura felt striking pain on his left leg after landing from the vault. He ignored the pain and continued to the parallel bars for which he awkwardly landed from applying pressure on his left leg and suffering pain. Not reporting the injury just yet, he was able to perform for the high bar but failed to land on his leg. He knew this time that there was something wrong and the pain he felt was not just any ordinary sprain or muscle spasm. He immediately thought that he broke his left leg after not being able to walk without crutches out of the arena.

Agência Brasil Fotografias [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

News reports show that he was diagnosed with ligament damage in October of 2017 on his left ankle that forced him to withdraw from all his competitions at the time. A spokesperson for the team expressed that he had been feeling slight pains on his left ankle for the past years but has been receiving the proper treatment and therapy for it.

Kohei Uchimura in 2018

After returning from his injury, it seems that he is struggling to return to the spotlight as he officially failed to qualify for the FIG Artistic Individual Apparatus World Cup early in 2018. However, in mid-2018 it seems that he had been gaining his previous strength and discipline as he performs like he always does in the NHK Cup. He performed floor and immediately reclaimed the spotlight.

Although he is far from returning to his full fitness, keeping himself active in the competition (although he doesn’t win) is good for his journey to recovery. He will be able to play again for the Overall World Championship between October and November of this year after completely falling out of the competition due to his injury in 2017. Many people are asking if he will reclaim his previous title. As of now, with the 2020 Olympics in their minds, Kohei Uchimura is asked to play it safe in the meantime.

Kohei Uchimura Instagram Updates

Currently, people can follow him on his Instagram page. Many of his fans started the trendy #OMAD which means ‘One Meal A Day’ hashtag on Instagram. This highlights his talents and discipline that helped him become the world’s best all-around gymnast. He also has a Twitter account that he uses to stay close and connected to his fans and supporters.