Uchimura holds up six fingers

At the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, after the competition ended, Kōhei Uchimura beamed into the camera and raised one finger at a time, until he showed the world six fingers, one for six consecutive world championships since 2009. Actually, it’s seven if you include the 2012 London Olympics. In fact, he is the only gymnast, either male or female, who has ever won more than two world championships in a row.

Such consistent superiority at the highest levels of gymnastics competition have left experts with little more to say about “Superman” Uchimura, except that he is the greatest gymnast who has ever lived. As USA Today put it:

There have been gymnasts who have won more medals, and those who claimed more golds. But no one – no one – has dominated like Uchimura or done it for so long. That just doesn’t happen in gymnastics, where the difficulty of the skills and the constant repetition required to perfect them means the best gymnasts have all the staying power of a Kardashian marriage. It’s simply too grueling to stay at the very top for more than one Olympic cycle.

Uchimura is amazing because he doesn’t believe he has to show he can make the most difficult maneuvers, which he probably could do. But his goal is perfection, and the beauty that perfection can reflect. Here is a wonderful interview of Uchimura conducted by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG), in which he says the following:

Beauty of movement is my goal. My father used to say that a hundred imperfect movements cannot match a single beautiful one, and this is something I have always kept in my mind. I could perform more difficult skills, but if I did I would have problems. For instance, I don’t have the energy that I did, and I can’t keep my feet taut, so I always aim for a balance between technical difficulty and execution in my routines. This is where the beauty of gymnastics comes in.

At the ripe age of 27, the Kita Kyushu native believes he is peaking at the right time for Rio, and that this is the last chance for him to maintain this level for all-around competitions, although he does leave open the possibility, as he says in the FIG interview, of competing for Japan at home in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Rio Olympics will probably be the last when I am at the top of my game. I want to be faultless. As the 2020 Olympics are being held in Japan, I want to carry on until then. [But] the risk of injury increases with age. One can carry on competing on the horizontal [high] bar for longer than the other apparatus. My technique is good, and I’m capable of scoring highly, so I would choose the horizontal bar.

The question is, can he lead the Japan team to its first overall gold championships since 2004, and perhaps spark another golden age of Japan’s men’s gymnastics when they won gold at six consecutive Olympics from 1960 to 1976. Uchimura will have London Olympic teammate, Koji Yamamoto, Ryohei Kato and Yusuke Tanaka, as well as a 19-year-old talent, Kenzo Shirai, who is a world champion in the floor exercise.

But there is no question: Unless Uchimura has an injury in Rio, there is very little stopping Superman from repeating as Overall Champion at the Olympics this summer.

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Batman vs Superman

In the film, Batman Vs Superman, two iconic comic book characters are brought face to face, setting up the inevitable debut of the Justice League from the DC universe. In the series, the Avengers, countless super-heroes of the Marvel universe have been brought together much to the delight of geeks and fanboys.

In the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, there was a super-hero team up of sorts when Jim Thorpe and Duke Kahanamoku were selected for the US Olympic Team. Thorpe is considered one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known. At the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe won, amazingly, both the pentathlon and the decathlon.

Thorpe and Kahanamoku
Jim Thorpe(left) and Duke Kahanamoku (right) in 1912

 

Duke Kahanamoku of the then American territory of Hawaii helped popularize surfing beyond his Honolulu shores. At the 1912 Olympics, he won the 100-meter finals becoming the fastest swimmer in the world.

Like most super-heroes, Thorpe and Kahanamoku were the outsiders. The Native Indian Thorpe and the Hawaaiin Kahanamoku were relatively dark skinned, and were seen as exotic by mainstream America, as explained by David Davis in his wonderful biography of Kahanamoku called Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku. Davis shared a typical headline from the Detroit Free Press, which accompanied a picture of Kahamoku and a black athlete, Howard Drew: Two Dark-Skinned Athletes with American Team”

The head of the US Olympic squad, John Sullivan, was typical of the times – he believed in the superiority of white athletes, and male athletes. But as Davis explained, he was also

People watch fireworks during New Years
People watch fireworks during New Years celebrations at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on January 1, 2016.AFP PHOTO/ YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

If you ask me – do you want to be freezing in Times Square or swaying in a tropical breeze on the Copacabana when the clock strikes 12 and the fireworks bring in the new year – I have to say, at least for 2016, it’s gotta be Rio.

And to signify the start to Brazil’s 2016 Olympian coming-out party, the fireworks launched to the theme music of the Olympics.

Ah, but which theme? As you can see below when you click on the image below, they play the music actually called “Olympic Fanfare and Theme”. 2016 New Year Fireworks Rio de Janeiro_ao vivo

The “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” was created by famed composer, John Williams, who was commissioned by the United States Olympic Committee to compose a theme for the Los Angeles Olympic Games. In 1984, John Williams had already created the iconic musical themes for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman and Indiana Jones, so it was not a stretch to select Williams.

To be fair, there are always new songs and anthems created for each Olympic Games. The Indie band Elbow created the theme for the London Games in 2012.

And when Europeans in general think of theme music for the Olympics, they likely think of Vangelis and his theme from the movie, Chariots of Fire.

But, as explained in this great summary article from the Smithsonian, American audiences were trained by the networks in the 1970s, primarily ABC, to associate the Olympics with Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream”, which begins with those familiar bass drum beats leading into a trumpet fanfare.

So in the 1990s, there were two themes in America associated with the Olympic Games. At that time, NBC had the rights to the Games, and