Mighty Malone | 2024 Xfinity U.S. Championships

Mighty Malone | 2024 Xfinity U.S. Championships

Inside Gymnastics is on the scene in Fort Worth, TX bringing you all the action! Make sure you’re following our social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Threads) for news and highlights throughout the week!

For our Senior Men’s Preview, Click Here!

For our Senior Women’s Preview, Click Here!

Broadcast schedule

Times are CT and subject to change

  • Saturday, June 1 – Senior Men Day 2 – CNBC LIVE – 7:00-9:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 2 – Senior Men Day 2 – NBC (Tape Delay) – 2:00-3:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 2 – Senior Women Session 2, Day 2 – NBC LIVE – 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Live Results: Men | Women

Mighty Malone

By Gina Pongetti

There are some clubs that you don’t want to be a part of. 

The return-from-catastrophic-injury-to-soar-mountains is one of them. 2020 Olympian and 2022 World Champion on high bar Brody Malone joined in March of 2023 shooting straight to a leadership role. 

Though the view from the other side – the climb, agony, and mental stress – is a beautiful one that those who are not members just cannot fathom, the path can be more arduous than most can take. 

Thursday night in Fort Worth, he stood in first place after the first of two days of competition posting a 85.950 in he All-Around. It’s a place that was unfathomable a year ago.

At the 2023 DTB Pokal Cup Malone’s hand slipped preparing for his dismount on high bar and when he finally landed, his knee didn’t make it, suffering a dislocation resulting in a tibial plateau fracture (top of the shin bone), two torn ligaments (PCL and LCL), meniscus tears and other cartilage damage. What followed was a grueling recovery regime to say the very least, including undergoing one surgery in Germany and flying home with an external fixator (a metal device holding bones in position but sticking out to connect to each other). On the day he landed in the States, he underwent a second surgery. A third and final surgery took place in July of 2023. All of them carefully paired with hundreds of hours in physical therapy in and out of the gym, and doing even more rehab independently. All the while, he had his eyes on the climb to the 2024 competitive season and his strong faith within him.  

But first, walking. 

Picture this: braces to keep the leg straight while learning to walk again and finally being released to do strength but no gymnastics. Learning to trust previously mundane and simple things like a back tuck off of a mat. Breathing through excruciating pain allowing the knee that was purposely straight for healing to now bend again. 

Watching Malone train and embrace his new “job” of being a professional patient – transitioned from a professional athlete – was inspiring. His constant smile, support of his teammates and grit during rehab visibly inspired all of those around him. 

Injuries within the sport of gymnastics vary from overuse/repetitive to acute and catastrophic. Given the immense stress on bones and joints, demand on muscles and tendons, and high velocity in which one flips and twists, it takes thousands of hours of training to be able to handle this day in, day out. 

Overuse injuries at times can be mitigated with proper work to rest ratio, recovery time, and literal time off when appropriate. The silly thing called a calendar and its inalterable competition schedule can unfortunately get in the way of perfect preparation and planning. 

When timing is off and luck is fleeting, catastrophic injuries can happen. Think back to the gasps in the air in the Rio Stadium during the 2016 Olympics when Samir Ait-Said hurt his knee on vault so badly that most still cannot view internet photos without looking away. A compound fracture… A year and one month later, he returned to competition in 2017 and subsequently was able to train with intensity for the 2021 Tokyo Games. He was not a stranger to this, of course, as a tibial fracture months before the London Olympics four years earlier kept him from competing.

And when Russia’s Artur Dalaloyan’s achilles was a literal hashtag trend in Tokyo in 2021, a mere three months after an April injury and a subsequent surgical repair, even the medical community was questioning the risk/reward of a pressure cooker return. His leg survived the test, placing an outlier data point on recovery time for sure. 

Here in Fort Worth, the breath-holding that the audience, coaches and staff alike were doing upon each of Malone’s landings was audible and felt very similar to the Ariake stadium during Dalaloyan’s vault and floor. A mix of awe and inspiration countered with anxiety and trepidation was palpable. 

For so many, variables including time, effort, exhaustion, burnout, patience and support availability  often feed into the odds of a return being unbelievably successful or a frustration leading to subsequent retirement announcements.  

Malone has been training at EVO in Sarasota, Florida alongside some of the nation’s best gymnasts and coaches. It’s a full training center geared toward not just success on the equipment but also off of the mat.

There is a recovery room (sauna, cold tub, compression boots) and their on-site PT/ATC Steve Przechera is equipped with the expertise, time, energy and knowledge to provide care at daily workouts as well as prehab and prevention work. He has the input of Coach Syque Caesar (2012 Olympian and University of Michigan standout) who is the Men’s Senior Elite Head Coach, along with Sam Mikulak (three-time Olympian and University of Michigan NCAA Champion) and the Kevin Mazeika (multi-time Olympic head coach and 30+ year coach) as the Executive Director. 

Caesar reflected on coaching Malone. 

“I’m very proud of Brody. He had a long and grueling recovery process to be in competitive form. To perform at such a high level at the U.S. Championships is a testament to his determination, work ethic, discipline, and methodical approach over this last year in his training.” 

It is an art for sure to push, yet stack stress and difficulty carefully upon someone’s long return. Things change daily with large strides being made at times, and patience at the forefront at times where there are stagnant moments. 

“As a coach, I spent countless hours developing his training plan, making several adjustments based on his pain level, fitness, strength, gymnastics proficiency, and comfortability,” Caesar reflected. 

“I worked closely with [Przechera] to determine specific gymnastics benchmarks I felt were important that aligned with Brody’s medical recovery timeline to best prepare him to compete safely and competitively. It took a lot of patience and discipline for me to stay the course and be willing to make thoughtful compromises in the short term to prioritize his readiness in the long term.”

Coaching a recovery process aligns with needing a part time medical degree, assistant strength certification, honorary psychology training and also to be an outstanding technical coach. Outlining the science of the return is one thing. Keeping mentally focused – both the coach and the athlete – is another. 

“Brody did a phenomenal job with communicating when he felt that he needed to limit his volume or stop taking turns all together on a particular day or on an event (landings, vault, and/or floor). This all came together to expedite his recovery ahead of schedule to be able to compete in the all-around here.”

Though the ramp-up plan was meticulously thought out to have the endurance, confidence and strength in four weeks at Olympic Trials, Malone and his coaches ultimately made the decision to do all six here in Fort Worth, a month earlier than initially planned. 

“We have a great professional coach-athlete relationship,” Caesar proudly reflected, “built on trust and knowing we both want his best gymnastics interest as the primary focus. I am grateful and honored to be able to coach him.”

It is far from over. And Malone knows this. He is focused on doing “his gymnastics” and not what the rest of the field is producing. Night 2 in Fort Worth is the next step. Then he’ll have three weeks at home training before reporting to Minneapolis the week before Olympic Trials to settle in there before the competition and before the ultimate final push to Paris. Then maintaining for three more weeks before the trek to Paris.  Increasing muscular endurance. Adding in numbers to get closer to what Malone has been used to in preparation for peaking, aiding in confidence among other things like continued security that his knee, indeed, will hold him when he lands again. 

Mentally staying the course has been made easier for him with his EVO team by his side and keeping balanced, along with a little wedding planning. He’s engaged to long time girlfriend Serena. Warm weather in Florida and being closer to home helps, too, he says.

Yul Moldauer, an Olympic veteran competing along side of Malone for years, was cheering on his friend.
“I knew that he was going to do all-around, and I was so excited. I made sure I watched every single routine that I could. I cheered for him because he’s been working his butt off to be back, and it’s awesome. We’ll celebrate.”

For those who are new to the field, they lean on veterans to show them longevity, grit and to set the bar. Fred Richard, in his first Olympic cycle, reflected on Malone’s epic comeback.

“I mean, it just shows Brody is a dog, number one. So much respect for him. So much respect to just come back and dominate. He’s definitely going to push me in the gym.”

The United States Men’s program is likely to put together its strongest chance at a team medal since Bronze in 2008- a long 16 years ago when Malone was just a wide-eyed eight-year-old boy. Making it to the Olympics three years ago was a good starting point. Standing atop a podium wearing U.S .colors on the outside along with his plates and screws on the inside has a champion ring to it. Inside and out. 

Whatever you are doing, Brody, keep it up. The world is behind you and in awe along the way. 

Quick Chat! Malone Saddles Up For U.S. Championships

By Megan Roth

After winning the U.S. All-Around title in 2021 and 2022, and becoming the World Champion on high bar in 2022, Brody Malone suffered a devastating injury at the 2023 DTB Pokal Cup: a tibial plateau fracture, a partially torn PCL, and a fully torn LCL.

Three surgeries later, Malone is back and ready to make a run for his second Olympic Games. At the 2024 Winter Cup, he made his comeback to competition in a spectacular fashion, competing on pommel horse, rings, and parallel bars.

Today at the Xfinity U.S. Championships, Malone will compete in the All-Around for the first time since his injury. The routines he plans to compete here are similar to what he competed before his injury and he plans on these being his routines for Olympic Trials and the Olympics if he makes the team. 

The recovery process for Malone was long and difficult. He had to completely relearn how to walk, and until recently, he wasn’t able to tumble on the real floor. “It was a hard process,” Malone said. “But, I’m very happy with my progress and where I’m at now.”

Malone trains at EVO in Sarasota, Florida alongside a tight-knit team including Shane Wiskus, Curran Phillips, Stephen Nedoroscik, and Alex Diab. “The facility is amazing,” Malone said. “The coaches are awesome. And then we have a very tight-knit team down there.”

Even with the pressure that comes with an Olympic year, Malone is confident in his training.

“I try to just turn my mind off, to be honest,” Malone told us after podium training. “I mean, it’s just gymnastics. That’s what I keep telling myself. I’ve prepared for these competitions for my whole life. There’s nothing new about it. I mean, I’m just doing what I do in the gym every single day.”

The 2024 Xfinity U.S. Championships kick off today in Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas! The senior men compete 7:00-9:30 CT on Thursday and 6:45-9:00 CT on Saturday.

For our full men’s preview with a look at the entire field, Click Here!

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