Gymnastics: Sam Mikulak wins U.S. all-around title
Hartford, Conn. • Sam Mikulak ran away with the U.S. men's gymnastics championship Sunday, winning the all-around title with ease over Alex Naddour.
The two-time NCAA champion put together a two-day total of 181.400, a whopping 2.9 points ahead of Naddour.
The margin would have been even bigger if Mikulak hasn't slipped twice during pommel horse, his final event.
Jake Dalton was third, followed by defending champion John Orozco. Danell Leyva, the all-around bronze medalist in London last summer, finished seventh.
Mikulak put together a dominant performance during the preliminary round Friday and entered Sunday with a lead of nearly three points.
Yet rather than play it safe, he poured it on, cementing his spot as a serious medal threat at the world championships in Belgium this fall.
The laid-back 20-year-old from Southern California hardly seems concerned with the pressure of becoming the top American gymnast. He put on a show during in the finals, widening his massive lead through five events and leaving the rest of a very talented field playing for second.
It's a battle Naddour emerged from with ease. Considered a specialist on the pommel horse an event the U.S. has struggled in for three decades Naddour slipped by Dalton, the co-favorite, to cement a spot alongside Mikulak on the world championship team.
Dalton, rings specialist Brandon Wynn and floor exercise champion Steven Legendre figure to join Naddour and Mikulak in Belgium. The sixth and final spot could come down to Orozco and Leyva.
The duo were the linchpins of the 2012 Olympic team but have taken very different paths over the last 12 months. Orozco tore the ACL in his left knee last fall. This weekend marked his first all-around competition since leaving London and after shaking off some rust on Thursday his all-around score on Sunday (90.4) was second only to Naddour.
Leyva flubbed his way through pommel horse twice, but redeemed himself on parallel bars. The 2011 world champion in the event posted a score of 15.650 on Sunday, easily the highest of the afternoon.
Even if Leyva or Orozco makes the team, he will play a supporting role behind Mikulak. The perpetually chilled out kid who begins his senior year at Michigan next month grabbed the mantle as top American with both hands. Don't expect him to lose grip anytime soon.
Mikulak ripped through the first five events and threatened to break the record for largest margin of victory in a national meet. He bounded off the stage after drilling his floor exercise routine for a score of 15.5.
The only slipup came during what was supposed to be a victory lap. He popped off the pommel horse twice, staring in disbelief after he found himself with his feet on the ground for a second time. He muddled through with a 13.000, something coach Kurt Golder is sure to bring up as they prepare for worlds.
Dalton began the day as the only gymnast with any shot of catching Mikulak, but any chance the 2012 NCAA all-around champion had of making inroads disappeared when he slipped off parallel bars during the second rotation. Dalton slapped the bar in disgust as he went to rechalk, any glimmer of a national title gone.
His 13.850 extended Mikulak's lead to over four points, cutting out any sense of drama less than 24 hours after Simone Biles edged Kyla Ross for gold in the women's all-around final.