Mikulak struggles, Malone shines at U.S. Championships


FORT WORTH, Texas — Even with six national titles on his resume, Sam Mikulak expected jitters heading into the U.S. men’s gymnastics championships. After all, he is coming back after an extended 15-month layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were noticeable, too. Really noticeable. Good thing this is only for all intents and purposes a practice meet.

Mikulak, seeking to make his third Olympic team, struggled at times during the opening round on Thursday night. He came off parallel bars. He stumbled on floor exercise. He couldn’t quite hit his dismount off pommel horse.

The result was a seventh-place performance for the 29-year-old, leaving plenty of room for improvement heading into what is likely the final summer of his competitive career.

Mikulak hadn’t competed since the 2020 American Cup. He used the downtime to get engaged and focus on his mental health among other things. He expected his return to competition to be a bit uneven. He wasn’t wrong.

Then again, he wasn’t alone either. Yul Moldauer, the only man to win a national title outside of Mikulak since 2013, came off the horse in the middle of his routine. Shane Wiskus, who left the University of Minnesota to train at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center last fall, took a major step after landing his vault.

That left the door open for Brody Malone. The two-time NCAA all-around champion from Stanford was spectacular at times while posting a score of 86.250. Moldauer and Brandon Briones are tied for second at 83.600, with Wiskus in fourth at 83.350.

The meet is merely a warm-up of sorts for the U.S. Olympic Trials in St. Louis later this month. USA Gymnastics amended its selection process this spring after a scheduling conflict with the Pan American Gymnastics Championships this weekend led the Americans to send several Olympic hopefuls to Brazil.

Rather than use the results from both the national championships and Olympic Trials to select the team, the committee will now only focus on what happens at Trials.

That gives time for veterans like Mikulak to tighten up. Yet a seventh national title is likely out of reach barring a significant step back by Malone during the finals on Saturday.


More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

No posts to display