In many sports, there is a discussion over who the best in that particular sport is.
In men's gymnastics, there is no discussion - King Kohei reigns over his kingdom.
On Wednesday, Kohei Uchimura lead Team Japan to the gold medal in the men's team finals. Uchimura struggled in the team event, where he fell and had a couple of stumbles, and some wondered if Kohei's reign was about to come to an end. Two days later, however, Uchimura was back to his typical form, and won his sixth straight all-around gold medal at the World Championship. Uchimura broke his own record. In fact, records are not new to Uchimura - he was the gymnast to win every major all-around title in an Olympic cycle when he won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics after being crowned World Champion in 2009, 2010, and 2011. His 18 total titles makes him the second most decorated gymnast by far. There appears to be no doubt that Uchimura is the greatest of the modern era, and perhaps of all time.
And yet, when he landed his final routine on the high bar and post his score, he let out a huge cheer. What can cause a man to continue to strive for greatness after breaking down every barrier that was in front of him? For Uchimura, it has nothing to do with the medals. It's all about country pride.
"It's not about the result," Uchimura said through a translator. "It's about the performance."
"It's not a one-time performance. It needs to be continuous. I can only do gymnastics. I'm going to keep doing it to give hope to the people."
Uchimura is the Japanese version of LeBron James. He has been featured in many advertisements. He is one of the most recognized athletes in Japan, is an inspiration to every young gymnast in that country. Yet, there is something to be said about Uchimura's dedication to his country, and it's beginning to pay off for Japan. Uchimura may have won six all-around titles, but this was the first time he was able to lead Japan to team gold. Uchimura's team mate, Kenzō Shirai, one of the young men who looked up to Uchimura growing up, has won two golds and a silver in the floor exercise, including a gold medal this year in Glasgow. Kazuma Kaya, the youngest member of the Japanese team, took home a bronze in the pommel horse. Uchimura's presence on the national team forced other Japanese gymnasts to improve in order to compete with him, and it has caused Japan to become a men's gymnastics powerhouse.
Besides the team golds, Uchimura has one more goal in mind, and that is to become the most decorated gymnast of all time. In his mind, Uchimura can not be considered the greatest of all time until he passes the record of Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus. Scherbo holds 23 World gold medals, including 12 golds, but he only won one all-around world championship.
“Uchimura doesn’t consider himself to be the best gymnast in the world, even though he win a lot of medals in the World Championships,” he said through a translator.
The scary thing is, Uchimura has plenty of competitions ahead of him where he could potentially pass Scherbo's number. Uchimura is only 26 years of age, and as long as he remains healthy, he could continue to be a force in international gymnastics for the next ten years. With Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics, there is no doubt that is likely a goal of his.
Other gymnasts all over the world have known for the past seven years that Uchimura is the best in the world, and they have all been stepping up their game in order to take him down from his throne. So far, however, none of them have been successful. That, perhaps, is King Kohei's greatest accomplishment.