The Greatest Male Gymnasts: Uchimura, Scherbo, Dragulescu, Chechi, Ono, Li Xiaopeng and Magyar

My choice of the greatest gymnasts in history for the different events in the artistic gymnastics programme.

All Around Kohei Uchimura (Japan)
Floor Vitaly Scherbo (Belarus)
Vault Marian Dragulescu (Romania)
Rings Yuri Chechi (Italy)
High Bar Epke Zonderland (Netherlands)
Parallel Bars Li Xiaopeng (China)
Pommel Horse Zoltan Magyar (Hungary)

Kohei Uchimura is the outstanding all around gymnast of this century, and indeed ever, with six world titles and two Olympic golds. Many of these have been by huge margins and his 2011 world title was possibly the greatest performance of all-time in an all-round  competition. The strange thing is how few titles he has won in individual disciplines. This is partly due to the current tendency for other gymnasts  to specialise in one event. Other candidates for the title of best all-round gymnast are:

Viktor Chukarin, who won two Olympic golds and a world title in the mid-1950s.

Wei Yang with two world titles and an Olympic gold in the 2000s.

Boris Shakhlin with an Olympic, world and European title between 1955 and 1960.

Vitaly Sherbo won an Olympic and world all-round title and also many titles in the individual disciplines. In 1992 he won six gold medals at the Olympics and is the only male gymnast to have won world titles in each of the individual events.

Taking everything into consideration I have chosen Uchimura.

There is no overwhelming champion on floor. Igor Korobchinskiy and Marian Dragulescu both deserve consideration but Scherbo just edges it with his three world and two European titles.

The vault is another closely contested title. Scherbo, Li Xioapeng, Yang Hak-Seon and Nikolai Andriyanov all came close. The latest champion at the event is Ri Se-gwang of North Korea who has an Olympic and three world titles. He could well overtake the man who is just ahead of him in my rankings. My choice is Dragulescu who won four world and two European titles between 2001 and 2009.

The Rings is a real specialist discipline. There have been several great performers on the Rings from Alois Hudec in the 1930s to Albert Azarian who won twice each in the Olympics and world championships from 1956 to 1960. More recently Aleksandr Ditiatin won three global titles. However, the choice of the greatest  comes down to two gymnasts from even more recent times. between 2006 and 2011 Chen Yibing won four world and one Olympic titles. He came close but my choice for the greatest goes to Yuri Chechi. He won five world and one Olympic title between 1991 and 1997 and also won four European golds.

The High Bar has produced many gymnasts with two global titles but only three who have won more. Three were won by Takashi Ono, between 1956 and 1962, and Zou Kai from 2008. However, with three world titles since 2013 and an Olympic gold Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands has become the best ever at this event. Very difficult to choose after him but Ono had fewer opportunities to win golds and I give it to him.

Parallel Bars is another event with nobody who towers above the rest. In the early 1960s Miroslav Cerar was an outstanding performer and Li Jing won three world titles between 1989 and 1992. He was succeeded as the top gymnast on bars by Scherbo but my choice as the best of all time is Li Xioapeng who won two Olympics and a world title between 2000 and 2008. He stayed at the top for longer than the others which makes him my choice.

The event which has seen the greatest specialists of all is the Pommel Horse.  Recent winners of many titles include Marius Urzica, Pae-Gil Su, Xiao Qin and Krisztian Berki. Going back a little further Valentin Mogilny was very good. However, there are two gymnasts who won far more titles than anyone else. Miroslav Cerar of Yugoslavia won two Olympic, three world and three European titles in the 1960s. In my view he is the second best. This is because of the achievements of Zoltan Magyar. The Hungarian won two Olympic, three world, three European and two world cup titles on Pommel Horse between 1973 and 1980. Gymnasts still use moves named after him today. He is the greatest individual specialist on any apparatus.

Turning my attention exclusively to more recent times.

My choice of the greatest gymnasts in the different disciplines if I were to choose a select team for the 21st century.

All Around Kohei Uchimura (Japan)
Floor Marian Dragulescu (Romania)
Vault Marian Dragulescu (Romania)
Rings Chen Yibing (China)
High Bar Epke Zonderland (Netherlands)
Parallel Bars Li Xiaopeng (China)
Pommel Horse Xiao Qin(China) and Krisztian Berki(Hungary)

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2 Responses to The Greatest Male Gymnasts: Uchimura, Scherbo, Dragulescu, Chechi, Ono, Li Xiaopeng and Magyar

  1. gymnastics fan says:

    All Around:
    Kohei Uchimura

    Kohei Uchimura

    Xiao Qin

    Marian Dragulescu

    Chen Yibing

    P. Bars:
    Kohei Uchimura

    H. Bars:
    Kohei Uchimura

    • rob23notts42 says:

      We seem to agree on many of the best gymnasts of recent times in the different events but I also have to look further back and consider those gymnasts. Uchimura produces fantastic performances in the all-round event but in the apparatus finals hasn’t won enough golds to be regarded as the best in those. He has only ever won two gold medals at world or Olympic championships in individual apparatus finals so I can’t choose him as the best.

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