It’s hard not to imagine all the scenarios for Team USA’s Olympic team following the conclusion of men’s competition at the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Saturday night in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s also hard to imagine a team without Brody Malone (170.700), Yul Moldauer (167.950), and Sam Mikulak (167.400) – the 2021 U.S. gold, silver, and bronze all-around medalists, respectively.
Decked out in cowboy hats and Team USA Olympic jackets, the new U.S. senior men’s national team was named following two days of competition at Dickies Arena, with all 12 athletes qualifying to the 2021 Olympic Team Trials – set for June 24-27 in St. Louis, Missouri.
The three M’s – Malone, Moldauer, and Mikulak – led that group, followed by the fourth through sixth place all-around finishers: Brandon Briones (167.150), Allan Bower (166.150), and Akash Modi (165.500).
Shane Wiskus, Eddie Penev, Gage Dyer, Ian Gunther, Alex Diab, and Stephen Nedoroscik rounded out the initial national team announcement.
Additionally, per the 2021 U.S. Championships Qualifications and Senior National Team Selection procedures, all five members of the 2021 Pan American Championships team – Paul Juda, Cameron Bock, Vitaliy Guimaraes, Riley Loos, and Donnell Whittenburg – are automatically qualified to national team and trials. Additional athletes – up to 21 total – are expected to be named in the coming days following deliberations by the Men’s Program Committee (MPC).
Funded and unfunded spots on the national team will be designated following trials.
Changing of the guard: Malone dethrones Mikulak
Brody Malone took the lead in the first day of senior men’s competition on Thursday and never let it go through 12 rotations, and despite falling short of a historic seventh U.S. all-around title in his final championships, Sam Mikulak will be the first to tell you the Stanford gymnast is the future, not him.
“Brody, hands down, that kid’s the future,” Mikulak said after the conclusion of competition on Saturday night. “I’m just this old guy trying to keep up with him now. I’m just glad that there’s someone to fill my shoes when I’m gone.”
It was clear the 28-year-old USOPTC gymnast genuinely meant it, too, because that’s just who Mikulak is – a genuinely good guy in his final year leading the U.S. team before retirement.
“That’s the happiest third place finish I’ll ever have!” Mikulak added.
Most of the U.S. men had imperfect nights, with Moldauer and Mikulak, most notably, falling on pommel horse, and Malone suffering an uncharacteristic fall in the opening rotation on parallel bars, but with a over a month until the Olympic Games open, better to get the mistakes and nerves out now than in Tokyo.
“The nerves were definitely there,” Malone said about the fall. “P-bars was definitely a rough start, but I think it was the kick in the butt I needed to [get my] focus back and finish out the rest of the meet.”
Malone went on to to hit the rest of his routines, including a massive 15.050 on high bar – the highest score of the meet on that event.
While Malone (29.500) ultimately had to settle for silver on high bar due to 2018 World high bar bronze medalist Mikulak (29.600) beating him by 0.100 in the two-day totals, he did add a gold on vault with a 29.000 combined score.
(Note: The vault title was determined by gymnast’s first vaults only over the two days of competition. The scores for gymnasts who did two vaults were only used for national team selection, per USA Gymnastics.)
With a different winner on each event, the U.S. men showed promise on the specialist front this weekend.
Penev (29.750) edged Dyer (29.350) to take the floor title thanks in large part to an event-high 15.000.
The battle of the pommel horse specialists continued, this time with Nedoroscik (30.200) coming out ahead of Alec Yoder (30.050). Both athletes displayed an ability to hit big sets under pressure over the two-day meet, posting four scores of 15.000+ between them.
Illinois’ Diab is probably the U.S.’s best bet if the MPC decides to take a rings specialist to Tokyo. His 14.950 automatically qualified him to national team since it would have won him the gold medal at 2019 World Championships.
Moldauer rounded out the event winners with an especially clean and difficult set on parallel bars (14.800), substantially improving on his day one score of 14.350 to earn a 29.150 and top silver medalist Wiskus by 0.300.
Speaking of Wiskus, the Minnesota grad and current USOPTC gymnast was in contention for the all-around silver or bronze through the first five rotations but had a scary uneven bars set – including three falls – that ultimately scored an 8.800 and knocked him down to ninth in the standings.
Fred Richard dominates 17-18 junior division, Vahe Petrosyan wins 15-16 division after tie break
Massachusetts Elite’s Fred Richard stretched a narrow lead going into day 2 of the junior men’s 17-18 competition into nearly a three-point margin by the conclusion of competition, winning the 17-18 all-around (155.800), floor (26.400), vault (28.350), and high bar (25.950) titles.
Roswell’s Toby Liang finished second with a 153.050, and North Valley’s Joseph Pepe rounded out the all-around podium with a 151.450.
Lakeshore’s Rithik Puri took the pommel horse title with a 25.350 two-day total, and WOGA’s Dallas Hale won gold on both rings (26.450) and parallel bars (26.250).
The 15-16 division had an Oscars-esque whoopsie thanks to confusion among officials about the tie break procedures.
Both Kai Uemura (Lakeshore) and Vahe Petrosyan (Gymnastics Olympica) finished with scores of 155.600, resulting in a remarkable tie after 12 rotations. Uemura was initially crowned as the all-around champion in that division, with Petrosyan having to settle for silver, but this was later corrected.
“A mistake in applying the tie break criteria immediately following the event’s conclusion contributed to an inaccurate awards ceremony that was later resolved,” USA Gymnastics official statement said. “The glitch impacted all-around and floor exercise results in the 15-16-year-old division.”
Prior to senior men’s awards, the athletes impacted returned to the floor and were re-awarded their medals. Petrosyan was ultimately named the 15-16 all-around champion, with Uemura finishing with silver.
The 15-16 event winners included Cole Partridge on floor (26.450), David Shamah (25.750), Petrosyan on rings (26.650), Caleb Melton on vault (28.500), Caden Clinton on parallel bars (26.300), and Uemura on high bar (26.050).
Per USA Gymnastics, “The top three 15, 16, and 17-year-old athletes automatically qualified to the Junior Men’s National Team based on their all-around performances over the course of the two-day competition. Five additional athletes will be named to the team by the Men’s Selection Committee later in the week.”
The nine gymnasts who earned automatic spots on the junior national team Saturday are:
- Xander Hong, Tomball, Texas/Cypress Academy of Gymnastics
- Toby Liang, Roswell, Ga./Roswell Gymnastics
- Caleb Melton, Woodbridge, Va./Apollo Gymnastics
- Alexandru Nitache, Knoxville, Tenn./GymTek Academy
- Cole Partridge, Bountiful, Utah/USA Gymnastics World
- Vahe Petrosyan, Van Nuys, Calif./Gymnastics Olympica USA
- Fred Richard, Stoughton, Mass./Massachusetts Elite Gymnastics Academy
- Kai Uemura, Chicago, Ill./Lakeshore Academy of Art Gymnastics
- Ignacio Yockers, Tulsa, Okla./Pride Gymnastics Academy