National champ Malone ahead at US Olympic gymnastic trials


ST. LOUIS — Brody Malone’s rise is no fluke.

The 20-year-old NCAA and national champion surged to the lead at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Thursday night, posting an all-around score of 85.250 to make a compelling case to be on the plane to Tokyo regardless of how things go during Saturday night’s finals.

The Stanford star finished in the top three on four events, putting up the top score on high bar, tying for the best score on floor exercise while finishing second on still rings and third on parallel bars.

Shane Wiskus was second at 84.300, followed by 2017 national champion Yul Moldauer and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak.

The all-around leader following Saturday night’s finals will automatically earn a spot on the team, with the runner-up also guaranteed a spot provided they finish in the top three in at least three events.

Men’s high-performance director Brett McClure said the emphasis for the four-man team will be on the top all-arounders, and the quartet of Malone, Mikulak and Moldauer have made a pretty compelling case for themselves of the last three weeks.

Malone, Mikulak and Moldauer finished in the top three at the national championships in Fort Worth, Texas, this month. Wiskus was on his way to joining them before a nightmarish turn on high bar in the finals, when he fell three times to tumble all the way to ninth.

There were no major miscues this time around. Not by Wiskus or any of the other top contenders. Moldauer, hobbled by back spasms at nationals that cost him on pommel horse, bounced back by drilling his pommel horse set, his 14.050 the second-highest score on the event of the night.

Mikulak, a six-time national champion, lacked his usual polish on pommel horse and parallel bars. Yet he seemed far more steady than he was during the opening night at nationals three weeks ago.

While Malone, Moldauer, Mikulak and Wiskus appear to be separating themselves, the real drama heading into the weekend might be who gets the “plus-1” spot.

Penn State’s Stephen Nedoroscik, competing in his first Olympic Trials, endured a jittery start. Competing on just one event — pommel horse — Nedoroscik came off early in his set and settled for a 13.650. Not that he seemed particularly bummed about it. Nedoroscik conducted his own post-event interview with a nearby NBC camera, admitting he was “a little lost in the moment” while competing at his first trials.

Alec Yoder had no such issues on pommels. The fans in the stands near him roaring as he powered his way from side to side, Yoder let out a yell as he drills his set, his 15.050 easily the best of the night on an event that has long been a trouble spot for most Americans.

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