Paul Juda secures Team USA +1 Olympic berth at 2021 Pan American Championships

By Mackenzie Brooks | June 5, 2021
Paul Juda secures Team USA +1 Olympic berth at 2021 Pan American Championships
Paul Juda hits his pommel horse set at the 2021 Pan American Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

The U.S. men have officially earned one additional Olympic berth thanks to Paul Juda leading Team USA in the all-around at the 2021 Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Michigan’s Juda placed second in the all-around at Pan Ams to earn a flat 83.000. As the first eligible athlete – first-place finisher Caio Souza (Brazil) was ineligible since he helped Brazil qualify a team at the 2019 World Championships – Juda earned a +1 Olympic berth for the U.S. men’s program to award at Olympic Trials.

Since the U.S. men qualified a 4-person team via 2019 Worlds, the berth is for the country not for Juda himself.

Juda and the other four guys who traveled to Brazil have automatically qualified to Olympic Trials and will compete for spots on the team in St. Louis in less than three weeks, although they likely won’t be competing for this particular +1 spot as it is geared more toward event specialists with “medal potential,” according to Men’s High Performance Director Brett McClure.

Souza’s teammate Diogo Soares finished third behind Juda and clinched the other Olympic berth for his country.

Team USA’s Riley Loos (Stanford), Vitaly Guimaraes (Oklahoma), and Cameron Bock (Michigan) followed behind in fourth, fifth, and sixth place, respectively.

Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade competes at the 2021 Pan American Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

If you’re wondering about the U.S. women, they didn’t send a team to this year’s Pan Ams because they have already qualified the maximum number of six berths to Tokyo.

Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade won the women’s all-around at the event, earning an individual Olympic berth for herself. Costa Rica’s Luciana Alvarado earned the second individual berth after placing third behind Andrade and Argentina’s Martina Dominici, who already qualified to Tokyo.

Specialists set sights on +1 spot

Now that the US men have achieved their mission in Brazil, they are leaving Pan Ams early for safety reasons. 

“US men won’t stay for finals,” Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams tweeted after the meet. “Both out of COVID concerns, and to get home to train for trials.”

As those gymnasts head home to prepare for trials, the rest of the U.S. men are gearing up to compete in day two of the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Unlike day one, the men know a fifth Olympic berth is officially on the table now, and multiple specialist contenders have their eye on it. 

Gymnasts to look out for include Gage Dyer, who is tied for first on vault and is second on floor. Another vault and floor specialist to consider is Eddie Penev, who placed first on floor and third on vault after day one.

Alec Yoder competes during day one of the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships. (© Jessica Frankl)

In regards to pommel horse, Team USA’s notoriously weak event, Steven Nedoroscik and Alec Yoder are the names to watch. Nedoroscik and Yoder currently stand in first and second, respectively, on the apparatus after day one of nationals. 

Alex Diab has also shown Olympic medal potential on still rings, as he currently leads the competition on the event. 

While there are many hypothetical ways this extra berth could be given out, Brett McClure is sure of his intention.

“If we have an all-arounder who has potential to make the top three, they are considered,” McClure said. ”If it’s an event specialist who has potential to be in the top three, they are considered.”

The U.S. men begin their final day of nationals on Saturday, June 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Find out how to watch and more here.