By Pritha Sarkar
The world’s best gymnasts will be hoping the blood, sweat and tears they have shed in training will provide them with the spark they need to pull the plug on two champions who have been dubbed “robots” at the world championships.
Such has been the dominance of Japan’s Kohei Uchimura and American Simone Biles in recent years that if they fail to win the all-around titles in Glasgow’s Hydro Arena, it will be considered one of the biggest shocks witnessed in the sport.
Before Uchimura began his global domination in 2009, no male gymnast had won more than two world all-around titles.
Incredibly, the 2012 Olympic champion is now on the verge of capturing a sixth successive world gold medal in an event that tests skills across six apparatus.
Aged 18, Biles is also on the verge of accomplishing something no female gymnast has achieved – winning three world all-around titles in a row.
“Everyone says that I’m an alien or a robot but I think he (Uchimura) is,” Biles told Reuters in an interview ahead of the October 23-November 1 championships which also act as a qualifying competition for next year’s Rio Olympics.
“It would be cool if a girl could do that (win three in a row). If it is me…
“I think what Uchimura has done is very amazing and I don’t think anyone could do what he does.”
Despite his diminutive 1.62-metre frame, Uchimura is regarded as a gymnastics goliath as he has turned countless rivals into emotional wrecks in his never-ending search for perfection.
“A lot of foreign athletes say I perform like a machine. I take that as a compliment,” said the 26-year-old, whose haul of 16 world medals includes seven golds.
“To me, moves and performances that are mechanical are perfect. A robot can be more accurate and exact in movement than a human can every time.”
Despite all his success, there is one gold that has eluded the man known as ‘Supermura’ over and over again – a coveted team title for Japan at a global meet.
The collective strength of China means that since 1994, Chinese men have won 10 of 11 world titles and three of the five Olympic golds on offer.
Japan did win the Olympic title in Athens in 2004 but that was in the pre-Uchimura era.
The Asian powerhouses have been engaged in a mighty tug of war since 2007, with China trumping Japan every time, and last year’s world title was decided by just one-tenth of a point.
“All I’m looking at is winning team gold,” added Uchimura, who is hoping to help Japan triumph in a world team event for the first time in 37 years.
In the women’s competition, Biles and her American team-mates – who include Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas – are targeting a hat-trick of world titles as countries vie for a top-eight finish in order to secure an automatic berth into the 2016 Olympics.
Hosts Britain will be spearheaded by Claudia Fragapane as she returns to the arena where she won four Commonwealth golds in 2014.