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Kato into top 3 of men's all-around at worlds

AP - Sports

ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) -- Kohei Uchimura showed he is the overwhelming favorite to win a record fourth all-around world championship by qualifying for Thursday's final by a big margin.

Uchimura also qualified for the weekend floor exercise, high bar and parallel bar finals on Tuesday. The Olympic champion is trying to become the first male or female gymnast to win four all-around world titles and cement his status as the greatest gymnast in history.

With only one of four qualifying groups left, Japanese teammate Ryohei Kato moved into third place with 89.474 points, still trailing Uchimura's big 91.924. Sam Mikulak of the United States was second with 89.532.

Japan, China and the United States led qualifying, while Russia disappointed with David Belyavskiy as its top performer in 14th place for the all-around, showing there is no easy replacement for injured University Games winner Mykola Kuksenkov.

The qualifying marks are thrown out for the final, making Uchimura's show of force only an exercise in psychological domination.

The reigning Olympic all-around champion produced his traditional show of elegance and power to sweep past early leader Mikulak, the U.S. champion, to top the standings.

Though Uchimura holds the men's record for all-around world titles, he still shares it with retired women's gymnast Svetlana Khorkina of Russia.

For good measure, he could win more medals in the apparatus finals. In the high bar, he goes against Olympic champion Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands, Mikulak and Fabian Hambuechen of Germany, the silver medalist at the London Games.

On the floor, Uchimura might be upstaged by 17-year-old teammate Kenzo Shirai, who dominated the floor with an incredibly difficult performance. The high school student was impressive on vault, too.

Overall, Japan has eight places in the six apparatus finals, compared to five each for the U.S. and China. Russia has only two places.

If most world championships after an Olympic year are packed with surprises, it was still stunning to see Two-time defending pommel horse and defending Olympic champion Krisztian Berki of Hungary fell off the pommel horse and missed the final.

The first round of women's qualifying was all set for Kyla Ross, a member of the U.S. Olympic gold medal team last year. Still 16, she is heading for her first world championship final and already showed the poise coming from owning an Olympic title.

She dominated a weak first qualifying group and with 59.198 points towered over everyone else. Especially on beam, she felt she could have earned more.

''I don't want to create too much controversy but I know that I was a little bit disappointed,'' she said.

She should make the top 24 for Friday's all-around final, but because only two per country are allowed in, she will have to wait and see what teammates Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney do in Wednesday's sessions.

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