“I guess, in my own mind, I try to keep the bar to where Sam wants the bar to be.” – Sam Mikulak

Photo by Lloyd Smith

News:

Mikulak Makes it 6!

Two-time World medalist Sam Mikulak thrilled the crowd with high-flying skills and routines on his way to his sixth U.S. men’s all-around title Saturday night. Mikulak is now tied with Makoto Sakamoto, who earned his sixth all-around title in 1970. Colt Walker and Taylor Burkhart won the junior 17-18 and 15-16 men’s all-around titles earlier in the day. The members of the 2019 World Championships Team Squad, along with the U.S. Men’s National Team, were also named.

The eight members of the 2019 World Championships Team Squad were determined by the Men’s Selection Committee. The squad will participate in the World Team Selection Camp September 5-9 at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The members are: Allan Bower, Trevor Howard, Mikulak, Yul Moldauer, Akash Modi, Shane Wiskus, Donnell Whittenburg and Colin Van Wicklen (who pulled out of the competition due to a concussion).

The 12 members of the U.S. Senior Men’s National Team are: Bower, Howard, Sean Melton, Mikulak, Modi, Moldauer, Stephen Nedoroscik, Robert Neff, Whittenburg, Van Wicklen, Wiskus, and Alec Yoder.

Noticeably absent from the list is Brody Malone.

The men’s award recipients were: Senior Coach of the Year – Thom Glielmi, Stanford University; Junior Coach of the Year – Tom Meadows, Cypress Academy; Sportsperson of the Year – Sam Mikulak, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center; and Athlete of the Year – Colin Van Wicklen, University of Oklahoma.

The senior women compete today at 6:30 p.m. CT and the junior women at 1 p.m. CT.

Notes:

  • On the Floor: USA Gymnastics president and chief executive officer Li Li Leung was spotted wearing a teal scarf for the men’s senior finals. Throughout the weekend, Leung has walked the competition floor with a purpose – introducing herself to the judges and chatting with coaches – not hiding behind the production panel, but out in the open. We love it!
  • January First: Juniors Hop to the Big League: By Gina Pongetti Angeletti

There are 17 women who competed Friday in the senior division, the first night of U.S. Championships, hoping for an invite to World Selection Camp. Add to that six juniors (who will move into the senior category as of January 1, 2020) who are age-eligible for the 2020 Olympics – and you have a field of 23 who have their sights on the World Cup Series leading up to Tokyo. 

The juniors eligible include: Kayla DiCello (Hills), Ciena Alipio (West Valley), Olivia Greaves (MG Elite), Sophia Butler (Discover), Lilly Lippeatt (Cincinnati Gymnastics) and Anya Pilgrim (Hills).

A mere 32 days separate Konnor McClain (Revolution), who is currently leading the junior division at 56.50 from being able to have dreams of stamping her passport for Tokyo. 

The seniors are more than holding their own, winning Team Gold at the Pan American Games just over a week ago in Lima, Peru. The juniors, however, continue to push boundaries in both skill and start value as well as cleanliness of execution. If they turn 16 before January 1 or 2021, they are officially in the mix. 

Friday night took an interesting twist: Morgan Hurd (First State) and Riley McCusker (MG Elite) both had atypical mistakes. Though McCusker sits in fourth, Hurd is in eighth with a 12.050 on a floor exercise filled with short landings and other wobbles. Hurd looked great in training and during her first three events, but by floor, she looked drained, perhaps feeling the effect of a long month of competition and training. 

So, the numbers game can be played. Take the scores from Day 1 for both seniors and add in the age-eligible Juniors, and we have some interesting stats:

  • Kayla DiCello (Hills Gymnastics) and Olivia Greaves (McCusker’s training partner at MG Elite) fall fourth and sixth respectively in the all-around. 
  • On uneven bars, Olivia Greaves falls in line just behind leader Sunisa Lee (Midwest Gymnastics).
  • On beam, although DiCello ranked eighth, her 5.8 start value hangs with the others. 
  • On floor, both DiCello and Greaves finish top eight, with Greaves’ performance (8.450) and DiCello’s difficulty score (5.60) pulling weight. 

Look for a complete breakdown following the second day of competition in an upcoming feature on insidegymnastics.com

Men’s Senior Finals – Mad Skills We Loved!

  • Sam Mikulak (USOPTC) added a full twisting laid out Tkatchev (Liukin) in addition to the amazing Cassina (full twisting laid out Kovacs). On Thursday evening he said, “I think my plan coming into this competition… day one generally just seems to be a rougher day for me, if I’m looking back at my history. So it’s like you know what, let’s not throw in the upgrades, let’s just do the easiest sets I think I can get away with. Let’s be clean, let’s be confident, let’s build some momentum from day one and let’s just leave it all out on the floor Saturday and have a lot of fun like I know how.” It worked!
  • Alex Diab (University of Illinois/Premier Gymnastics-IL) – Rings. The whole thing. Amazing.
  • Donnell Whittenburg (OSOPTC) – Laid-out double-double dismount off of rings. And entire ring set of incredible strength and control. 
  • Trevor Howard (Ohio State) – Beautiful double-double rings dismount. He made a name for himself at this meet.
  • Gage Dyer (University of Oklahoma) – One to watch! Good basic skills and body lines, especially on p-bars. Struggles still with execution and endurance, but we think shows great promise!
  • Shane Wiskus (University of Minnesota) – Catches a full-twisting Kovacs on High Bar with one arm, proceeds to perform a one-arm giant, and recover. Is there a bonus (or even credit) for this? Nope. It used to be in the Code of Points and was taken out for that reason – too risky to have people doing this with intention. 
  • Adrian De Los Angeles (USOPTC) – Piked double front floor mount and beautiful flare sequence with picture-perfect form. Artistry has returned!

 

Quotes:

Yul Moldauer on his thoughts before his final event: “I was really excited to see Shane Wiskus and Akash really close. Of course Sam is way up there, but I felt like it helped keep this competition a little more interesting with vying spots for second and third place. It was fun, but it’s also a time to teach yourself that this is what it’s going to be like on the national team and any competition –  it’s the last routine, you’ve got to trust your training and just go out there and hit. I love competing floor last, I’ve done this routine so many times and just told myself I could do it.”  

On his meet overall: “It was a good meet for me. I really just took four to six weeks off for an injury. I felt pretty comfortable coming back. Now we have a selection camp coming up so it’s just going to be some big-time work ahead. There’s definitely some areas where I can add some stuff, so it’s time to get back into the gym.”

Akash Modi on competing with Sam: “I feel like Sam’s gymnastics speaks for itself. He’s the six-time national champion, he won four events today, he’s clearly above all of us right now and, in some cases it’s not really difficulty, he knows how to compete and hit. He just hits really well and I think we could all learn a lot from him.”

On what he was thinking going into vault (his final event) and if he knew what place he was in: “Yes, I love watching scores. I’m a numbers guy so I always know what I need down to a half tenth… and, it just helps motivate me and maybe point my toes a little harder. It felt very good to just pop off that table and twist well and let the landing happen and stick it.”

Sam Mikulak on winning by such a high margin and his motivation: “I guess, in my own mind, I try to keep the bar to where Sam wants the bar to be.”

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