Sam Mikulak

Sam Mikulak leads one of most decorated P&G Championships fields ever

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PITTSBURGH — The men’s field at the P&G Championships is so accomplished and deep that there are seven gymnasts who own Olympic or World Championships medals.

And the favorite to take home the most coveted title Sunday, the U.S. all-around crown, is not part of that septet.

That’s Sam Mikulak, who won last year’s title by a whopping 2.9 points, the largest margin of victory in 14 years.

Mikulak has plenty of international experience, making the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team at 19 and finishing sixth in the all-around at his first World Championships last fall.

The spiky haired NCAA champion from the University of Michigan knows much is expected of him this year, beginning with the first night of competition Friday at 7 ET (NBCSN will have coverage at 11:30 p.m.).

“It’s always different being someone who’s defending versus someone who’s fighting for that first-place spot,” Mikulak said. “It’s different, but nothing’s really changing when it comes to my mentality.”

Mikulak’s task, to repeat, is complicated by the healthy presence of the three previous U.S. all-around champions. The field includes at least four past champions for the first time since 2008.

The 2012 U.S. champion, John Orozco, finished fourth in the all-around last year while wearing a knee brace after tearing an ACL and meniscus in October 2012. Orozco also tore an Achilles in 2010.

But there are no major injury worries this year. Just a funny left pinkie that he can’t feel when gripping parallel bars. Orozco won World Championships bronze on bars last fall.

Orozco diverted his answer when asked if he sees Mikulak as a favorite.

“I don’t really think about coming into beat anybody because that has been my downfall in the past, whenever I look around and I think I have to beat this person, or I have to do better than this score or that score. ” said Orozco, an Olympian and Bronx, N.Y., native. “I’m thinking inward.”

A gymnast well known for self reflection is 2011 U.S. champion Danell Leyva, often seen hidden under a towel between routines. He’s barely been visible since winning Olympic all-around bronze in 2012.

He finished seventh in the all-around at the 2013 P&G Championships, yet still made the World Championships team. However, he withdrew from the Worlds team due to a shoulder injury one day after being named.

In February, he placed ninth in the Winter Cup all-around.

“It’s been not what was planned, at all,” since the Olympics, said Leyva, the only U.S. man to bag a medal at an otherwise forgettable London Games.

The problem? Pressure. Leyva hopes he’s figured out the solution, not weighing himself down with expectations.

One man who said he has really low expectations in Pittsburgh is 2009 and 2010 U.S. champion Jonathan Horton. Horton, a two-time 2008 Olympic medalist, will raise his hand and perform routines in front of judges Friday for the first time since the 2012 Olympic high bar final.

“So I’m pretty nervous,” said Horton, 28 and a married father. “I’m the old man here.”

Horton, also plagued by injury since the Olympics, said he’s still three or four months away from being as strong as he used to be.

The entire 2012 U.S. Olympic team is in the field, including Jake Dalton.

So is the entire 2013 World Championships team, which had four different individual medalists in Antwerp, Belgium, last fall, matching Japan (though Japan had more overall medals, and the U.S. won no golds).

There is little room for breakthrough, but Donnell Whittenburg is powerful enough to beat the veterans and make his first World Championships team with a strong weekend.

Whittenburg, 20 and built like he should be competing across the Allegheny at Heinz Field, placed second in the all-around at the Winter Cup and won a national qualifier in Colorado Springs, Colo., on July 20. He beat Orozco and Leyva at the latter competition.

Simone Biles larger than life as defending champion

World Wrestling Championships broadcast schedule

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Olympic champions Kyle SnyderHelen Maroulis and Jordan Burroughs headline the U.S. team for the world wrestling championships, with daily live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA all next week.

Olympic Channel coverage of medal rounds will go from 1-3:30 p.m. ET from Monday through Saturday. NBCSN will air additional recap broadcasts.

Snyder and Burroughs will wrestle in their respective weight classes on Saturday. Maroulis goes on Wednesday. J’den Cox, a Rio bronze medalist, is scheduled Friday.

Snyder could have the most salivating matchup of all if he and Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev meet in the 97kg bracket. Snyder, 21, owned 97kg the last two years, becoming the youngest American wrestler to win a world title in 2015 and an Olympic title in 2016.

Sadulayev, also 21, is undefeated at the senior international level since November 2013. He won the 2014 and 2015 World titles and 2016 Olympic gold at 86kg. This year, he moved up to 97kg to potentially meet Snyder for the first time.

Maroulis won the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling gold medal in Rio, upsetting three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan at 53kg. Yoshida isn’t entered at worlds, not that it matters for Maroulis, who moved up to 58kg.

Then there’s Burroughs, who is looking to make up for a medal-less effort in Rio. The 2012 Olympic champion will go for a fourth world title in a 74kg bracket that lacks the Rio gold and silver medalists.

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MORE: Snyder savors Russian Tank showdown

Day Time (ET) Network Finals
Monday 1-3:30 p.m. Olympic Channel | STREAM Greco-Roman 71, 75, 85, 98
Tuesday 1-3:30 p.m. Olympic Channel | STREAM Greco-Roman 59, 66, 80, 130
Wednesday 1-3:30 p.m. Olympic Channel | STREAM Women 55, 58, 63, 75
Wednesday 3:30-5 p.m.* NBCSN Recap
Thursday 1-3:30 p.m. Olympic Channel | STREAM Women 48, 53, 60, 69
Thursday 4-5 p.m.* NBCSN Recap
Friday 1-3:30 p.m. Olympic Channel | STREAM Men Freestyle 57, 61, 86, 125
Friday 7-9 p.m.* NBCSN Recap
Saturday 1-3:30 p.m. Olympic Channel | STREAM Men Freestyle 65, 70, 74, 97
Sunday 3-5 p.m.* NBCSN Recap

*Tape delay

Marcel Hirscher set to miss start of Alpine skiing season

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Marcel Hirscher, the world’s best Alpine skier, likely will not race until December, missing the start of the World Cup schedule in the Olympic season.

The Austrian is likely out 12 to 15 weeks after breaking his left ankle Thursday, according to the Austria Press Agency, which quoted Hirscher’s doctor.

Hirscher, the winner of a record six straight World Cup overall titles, is set to miss the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 29. He’s likely out of the following race, a Nov. 12 slalom in Levi, Finland, if the reported timetable holds up.

The next set of technical races — Hirscher’s favored events — are Dec. 9-10.

Hirscher still would have easily won the World Cup overall title the last two years if excluding his points from Soelden and Levi.

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time for a break 🙈

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