By Patricia C. Duffy
Three Team USA gymnasts qualified to four spots in three event finals at the 2017 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships finals on Tuesday in Montreal, Que., Canada.
Feature photo by Grace Chiu; Video by USA Gymnastics
Those finalists include: Yul Moldauer (AA, FX), Alex Naddour (PH) and Donnell Whittenburg (FX).
Heading into Tuesday morning, there was still one subdivision of qualifications left for the men’s side, which knocked some U.S. gymnasts off the bubble and out of the running.
Naddour and Whittenburg are the first and second reserve athletes for the still rings final. Eddie Penev is the second reserve athlete for vault. Whittenburg is also the second reserve athlete for the parallel bars final. Marvin Kimble is the second reserve athlete for the horizontal bar. Sam Mikulak also competed but did not qualify to any finals or reserve spots.
Let’s recap the U.S. gymnasts’ performances from qualifications before reassessing the United States’ best hopes at a medal on the men’s side:
Finalist: Yul Moldauer (AA, FX)
Moldauer made a statement on his first day of competition at a World Championships.
The University of Oklahoma gymnast qualified to the all-around final in seventh place after notching three scores above 14.500 (FX, VT, PB) to earn a total all-around score of 84.331, despite a fall on pommel.
He also qualified to the floor exercise final in third position with a 14.700, just behind teammate Whittenburg (15.033) and Japan’s floor phenom Kenzo Shirai (15.766).
Pommel horse and high bar were two weak spots for the young wunderkind in qualifications. As stated above, he came off the horse in an otherwise solid routine and was sloppy at points during his outing on high bar. Both routines earned a tally of 13.066 with execution scores in the mid-sevens.
These scores do not carry over to finals, so everyone will start anew during finals later this week. If he is clean, hits, and keeps his trademark sticky feet consistent through his routines,, Moldauer will easily be able to compete with the other big names fighting to be inaugurated after the king himself, Kohei Uchimara, had to scratch due to injury.
Finalist: Alex Naddour (PH)
Naddour making this final comes as a shock to no one in the gymnastics universe.
The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist on the event, Naddour qualified in third, just behind the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, Max Whitlock (GBR), and the young Hao Weng of China. A mere 0.334 points marked the difference between Whitlock qualifying in first and Naddour in third. Below the top three the scores, it was still a tight race, meaning the men’s pommel final will be one to watch this weekend.
Naddour also competed on still rings, earning a solid 14.633 (and tying with teammate Whittenburg) to nab the first reserve spot in that final.
Finalist: Donnell Whittenburg (FX)
Whittenburg’s floor exercise routine was a showstopper. The power, the difficulty… it all came together in a routine that earned a huge 15.033 and secured second place for the Baltimore-native heading into finals. His biggest competition is first-place qualifier Kenzo Shirai (Japan) who dominated with his jam-packed and difficult routine that earned him a 15.766, as mentioned earlier.
This routine is one to watch or rewatch if you’ve already seen it:
Whittenburg also earned the second reserve spot for the still rings and parallel bars finals.
Not advancing: Eddie Penev (FX, VT)
Penev was solid on his two vaults in qualifications. He earned a 14.533 on his Yurchenko 2.5 with a whopping 9.333 execution score before upping the anty a bit and scoring a 14.600 on his second vault.
Penev was one of the gymnasts on the bubble heading into the final men’s qualifications subdivision and was ultimately bumped to second reserve in the vault final since his average 14.566 score was just shy of the top eight positions.
Over on floor, Penev followed Whittenburg and put on a show of his own, seemingly floating through his skills despite a few extra hops. His 14.633 (6.2, 8.433) qualifying score placed him sixth after qualifications were complete, but the two-per-country rule ultimately knocked him out of contention.
Not advancing: Marvin Kimble (PH, PB, HB)
Kimble, who took home titles on pommel and high bar at the 2017 P&G U.S. Championships had a rough outing on the day but still managed to earn a reserve spot in the high bar final.
On the horse, one of his specialties, Kimble slipped off twice earning a 11.500 and falling out of contention. Over on parallel bars, Kimble improved, avoiding any major mistakes but still missing out on key execution points due to small bobbles during his handstands and steps on his dismount (14.300).
To round out the day, Kimble competed on high bar where he earned a solid 13.933 to remain in the running for that event final. He would be knocked down to second reserve after the final round of qualifications.
Not advancing: Sam Mikulak (HB)
The face of USA Gymnastics’ for the past few years will not compete in the high bar final. Sam Mikulak, who is still recovering from a serious Achilles injury, fell on a release during his only routine of the competition. It was a similar fall to the one that he suffered at P&Gs in mid-August. He still earned a good 13.466 due to his D-score of 6.1, but after landing in eighteenth place after qualifications, Mikulak would be 12 spots shy of the final.
Best Medal Hopes?
All three U.S. finalists are in positions to medal in their respective finals. Naddour and Whittenburg seem like the Team USA’s best chances for medals due to their sky high scores in qualifying and their ability to improve on those performances going forward.
Moldauer is in a solid position heading into the all-around final and will be one to watch in the floor final as well. The mental game will be key during the next few days leading up to both of those finals.
Inside Gymnastics is on-site at the 2017 World Championships and will be bringing you non-stop coverage of the premiere competition of the year! Follow Inside Gymnastics (@insidegym) on social and bookmark insidegym.com on your desktop or laptop for previews, recaps, features, photos and more!