Japan's Hashimoto extends reign as world all-around champion

Antwerp, Belgium: Japan's Olympic champion Daiki Hashimoto bounced back after struggling in qualifying to successfully defend his men's all-around title at the world gymnastics championships in Antwerp on Thursday.

Hashimoto scored 86.132 points to finish over a point ahead of Ukraine's Illia Kovtun, who took silver (84.998), with American teenager Frederick Richard taking a surprise bronze (84.332).

Only two competitors from each country can compete in the all-around final and Hashimoto could have been left out.

But his team opted to retain him at the expense of Kazuma Kaya, who had finished ahead of him in Sunday's qualifying.

It proved a good decision by Japan, who won team gold two days earlier.

On Thursday, Hashimoto started his evening with an almost perfect floor routine but was frustrated after taking a big step forward on his final landing.

But the 22-year-old regained his composure, delivering an otherwise flawless performance which gave him the most coveted title in gymnastics for a second straight year.

"I was a little nervous, but less than in qualifying," Hashimoto said.

"So I thought everything would be fine today, but I couldn't control myself as well.

"After (the floor), I told myself I had no choice but to do better."

Kovtun only finished 19th in qualifying, but pulled out a brilliant performance to better his bronze medal won last year in Liverpool, with Richard, 19, putting the US back on the men's podium in the all-around for the first time since 2010.

"It's really fun and exciting, I've watched these guys for two to three years in the international level. Now I get to stand next to them which is pretty cool," said Richard, who also won team bronze on Tuesday.

"They are my competitors of course and I am excited to come back in future competitions and push for that gold."

First in qualifying, Hashimoto's Japanese teammate Kenta Chiba failed to finish on the podium.

Hashimoto further confirmed his status as the new king of men's gymnastics, taking up the torch from illustrious compatriot Kohei Uchimura.

He still has a way to go, however, to catch the now retired Uchimura, holder of 10 world crowns, including six in the all-around, and who dominated at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Hashimoto has the chance of winning further medals on Saturday when he competes in the floor and high bar apparatus finals.

In the women's competition, US superstar Simone Biles will try to win a 21st world title in the all-around final on Friday, in a possible duel with defending champion Rebeca Andrade of Brazil.

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