By Patricia C. Duffy
#MTL2017GYM is upon us, with the men tumbling into qualifications on Monday. Let’s break down the three-man lineups for Team USA on each apparatus.
Feature photo by Grace Chiu
On Saturday afternoon, Team USA released the following official lineups for the men’s qualification round (listed in alphabetical order, not competition order):
All-around (AA): Moldauer
Floor exercise (FX): Moldauer, Penev, Whittenburg
Pommel horse (PH): Kimble, Moldauer, Naddour
Still rings (SR): Moldauer, Naddour, Whittenburg
Vault (VT): Moldauer, Penev, Whittenburg
Parallel bars (PB): Kimble, Moldauer, Whittenburg
Horizontal bar (HB): Kimble, Mikulak, Moldauer
There are some not-so-surprising selections here, like Alex Naddour on PH and Sam Mikulak on HB.
What is surprising is Marvin Kimble, who won gold at the 2017 P&G Championships on high bar and still rings (tied with Michael Wilner/Gym Spot) and was selected over 2017 P&Gs all-around silver medalist Allan Bower, is not set to compete on still rings. Instead, he’ll compete on HB, PB and PH.
Time to break it down by event and see how these lineups shape-up:
Another unsurprising selection, the 2017 P&G Champion in the all-around, Yul Moldauer, provides the U.S. its best chance of medaling in the top event of an individual Worlds. With Mikulak still not 100% after his Achilles injury and unable to compete all-around, Moldauer is the number one all-arounder for the U.S. and the only all-arounder vying for a spot in finals.
An argument could be made for 2017 P&Gs AA bronze medalist Donnell Whittenburg to also compete all-around, since he’s already slated to compete four out of six events, but with only three men up on each event, the U.S. has to be careful with its selections, especially on PH. More on that in a minute.
Eddie Penev and Moldauer tied for the floor exercise title at P&Gs in August, so those two were seemingly easy choices. There likely would have been a tougher battle for the third spot if Mikulak was at full speed, but he’s still working his way back on this event. Instead, Whittenburg slides in with his high D-score. He had some trouble on this event in podium training, so he’ll look to hit a big set when it’s game time.
Right after the U.S. men’s Worlds team was announced, John Roethlisberger analyzed why each of the six athletes were selected (see that initial breakdown here).
His statement about Naddour says it best,
“Top guy on horse and probably the best medal hope at Worlds out of the entire men’s program.”
Naddour’s ability and tendency to crush a set on the horse is why he’s on the team and rightfully so. And don’t forget, he also owns an Olympic bronze medal on this event from Rio 2016.
Moldauer is the all-arounder, but he is also consistent and has the wow factor with his scissor and flare elements. He should contribute a solid score to his all-around total in this spot.
Kimble fills the final spot in this lineup. It’s a spot that could’ve gone to Mikulak, who placed second behind Naddour at P&Gs with two solid days of competition. In fact, most expected it would be Mikulak in the third spot. Kimble was inconsistent with his execution at Championships (8.250 and 7.650), but his D-score is the only in the U.S. contingent that matches Naddour’s when he hits (6.4).
This is the precarious lineup. Kimble tied for the title on rings at P&Gs. Instead of plugging him into a spot, the third (Whittenburg), fourth (Naddour), and fifth (Moldauer) place finishers of that event final get the nod.
With the first spot already secured by Moldauer, the other two spots were between Kimble, Naddour and Whittenburg.
Whittenburg has a higher D-score than Kimble and scored higher than him on day one of P&Gs (Whittenburg 15.000 – Kimble 14.950). Add in “The Whittenburg” dismount, if he performs it, and suddenly the U.S. has a serious contender for a SR medal.
Naddour also has a higher D-score than Kimble when he hits (albeit only a slight bit higher at 6.000). He scored the highest SR score of any competitor at P&Gs with a 15.100.
Easy plug and play lineup for the U.S. men: Penev and Whittenburg tied for the 2017 U.S. vault title. Moldauer has cat-like landings on this apparatus. It’s another box to check off if he wants to qualify to the all-around final. No questions here.
One of Moldauer’s best events, he’ll look for a score of around 15.000 to boost his all-around total tally.
Whittenburg is the obvious next choice here. He finished third on this event at P&Gs, just behind Moldauer, and puts up a HUGE 6.3 D-score with his routine. His execution needs to improve, and he’ll look to polish up here.
Kimble wasn’t put on this Worlds team for his parallel bars chops, despite having the ability to score big when he hits, but he slides into this spot since Mikulak, Naddour and Penev aren’t competing PB. Kimble struggled tremendously on day one of P&Gs on this event (10.500). He’ll look to show that he can hit under pressure on the world’s biggest stage.
Mikulak is on this team because of his ability to score big on this event. His 6.1 D-score, combined with his incredibly stylish execution give him a powerful 1-2 punch.
Kimble wasn’t originally in this lineup when USA Gymnastics (USAG) sent out the press release earlier today. In a follow-up email, USAG corrected the original lineup (Mikulak, Moldauer, Whittenburg) replacing Whittenburg with Kimble. He won this event at P&Gs while Whittenburg scored much lower, so this was likely just a typo that was quickly corrected.
Best Medal Hopes?
Best bets for medal opportunities are Naddour on PH, Mikulak on HB, Whittenburg on VT and SR and Moldauer in the AA. With near-perfect sets, Moldauer and Penev could have a shot on FX. Kimble has his best opportunity on PH, an event where he won the title at the 2015 Pan American Games.
This is the first event for the men’s program under High Performance Director Brett McClure, who is charged with leading the U.S. men back to the podium in 2020. He’s already instituted a number of changes in the program since taking over (more on that in our next issue), but this will be the first big test for McClure and Dennis McIntyre, Vice President Of Men’s Program, who oversees the program.
The road to Tokyo begins in Montreal!
Team USA begins competition with men’s qualifications on Monday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. ET. Full schedule and streaming information for the week can be found here.
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!