Boisterous cheering from his biggest fan helped Kohei Uchimura take the gold medal on Aug. 1 in the men's gymnastics all-around final at the London Olympics.
Uchimura's mother, Shuko, was in the stands shouting encouragement at the top of her lungs, hoping that would help Uchimura forget his less-than-flawless performances in the team competition preliminaries and final.
"I wanted to provide the best support by letting out the loudest cheers," Shuko said.
"I was able to increase my power by hearing the cheers during the competition. I am full of gratitude," Uchimura said in a nod to his mum.
Shuko called out to her son as he stood atop the victory podium and held up the gold medal with a grin on his face.
"He was probably very satisfied judging by his fine smile," Shuko said.
She has been with her son at every step of the way on his climb up in the world of gymnastics.
She was there when he won the all-Japan junior championship, captured the silver medal at the Beijing Games and won the all-around title at the world championships for three straight years.
At the same time, Shuko says she can barely bring herself to actually watch her son compete.
"I feel my heart is going to burst because I become so worried about whether he will fall and break a bone," she said.
During the all-around final in London, she covered her face with a Hinomaru national flag covered with messages encouraging her son to victory.
Uchimura took up gymnastics as a 3-year-old at his parents' gym in Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture.
He moved away from home when he attended senior high school. He later graduated from Nippon Sport Science University, and is now a member of the Konami Sports and Life Co. team.
Whenever he called, Shuko would think up new topics so she could engage him in more conversation. Not only was Shuko a concerned parent, but she was his No. 1 fan.
Uchimura repaid the many years of support from his mother by throwing her the bouquet of flowers he received along with his gold medal after the medal ceremony.
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