Sam Mikulak leads after first night of men’s competition at U.S. gymnastics championships

Sam Mikulak
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California-born Sam Mikulak, or “Hollywood,” as he’s better known to his Olympic teammates, took charge at the U.S. gymnastics championships in Hartford, Conn., on Friday.

Mikulak, 20, grabbed the lead in the second of six rotations and never relinquished it, finishing the first of two nights of competition with 91.65 points, nearly a three-point lead over Olympian Jake Dalton.

The scores Friday (full results below) will be combined with Sunday’s results to determine the national champion and which six men will be selected to compete at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in October.

Dalton, who won the American Cup in March, started strong on his signature event, floor exercise, but struggled (as many would) on the dreaded pommel horse, falling off during his routine.

There was an eerie air floating around the pommel horse — perhaps blame it on the bat which somehow made it inside the XL Center and flew around the arena throughout the night. Only one all-around contender made it through the pommel horse (long the U.S.’ weakest event) cleanly, Mikulak, who aims to become the fourth different man in as many years to win the U.S. all-around title.

“This is something that I’ve wanted to check off,” said Mikulak, the NCAA all-around champion and rising senior at Michigan.

Mikulak lived up to his nickname, signing at least one cell phone and high-fiving with the crowd between routines. His smile seemed pasted on from first event to final interview.

The same couldn’t be said for 2011 national champion Danell Leyva. The Olympic all-around bronze medalist continued his post-London struggles with a rough start on the pommel horse and fell twice on the parallel bars, an event in which he’s the currrent world champion. Leyva came back strong on his last event, high bar, but the damage was done and he is in sixth place.

John Orozco was the surprise of Friday night. The defending U.S. champion came into Hartford planning to perform only four of six events, 10 months after surgery to repair a torn ACL. Determined, he changed his mind and did all six Friday, sporting a knee brace. Orozco is in eighth place.

Exhaustion appeared to hit Orozco on the final rotation, when he skipped warm-ups for floor exercise. He ended up performing and hit his routine, but the damage of a two-fall pommel horse performance kept him way back in the overall standings.

The specialists showed up big Friday. Olympic alternate Alex Naddour proved his World Championship capability on the pommel horse with a massive 15.45 to go along with his third-place standing in the all around. Steven Legendre leads on floor exercise with a 15.9, an event he made the world finals in two years ago.

Both men made early cases to be chosen for the World Championship team, but there’s more work left Sunday.

All-Around
1. Sam Mikulak, Ann Arbor, Mich., 91.650
2. Jake Dalton, Norman, Okla., 88.700
3. Alexander Naddour, Queen Creek, Ariz., 87.900
4. Joshua Dixon, Colorado Springs, Colo., 87.450
5. Steven Legendre, Norman, Okla., 87.100
6. Danell Leyva, Homestead, Fla., 86.900
7. Brandon Wynn, Columbus, Ohio, 86.700
8. John Orozco, Colorado Springs, Colo., 86.650
8. Akash Modi, Morganville, N.J., 86.650
10. Donnell Whittenburg, Colorado Springs, Colo., 86.550

Floor exercise
1. Steven Legendre, Norman, Okla., 15.900
2. Eddie Penev, Penfield, N.Y., 15.800
3. Stacey Ervin, Ann Arbor, Mich., 15.750
4. Paul Ruggeri III, Manlius, N.Y., 15.650
5. Sam Mikulak, Ann Arbor, Mich., 15.350

Pommel horse
1. Alexander Naddour, Queen Creek, Ariz., 15.450
2. Sam Mikulak, Ann Arbor, Mich., 15.200
3. Michael Newburger, Columbus, Ohio, 14.900
4. Luke Stannard, Urbana, Ill., 14.600
5. Donothan Bailey, Berkeley, Calif., 14.300

Still rings
1. Brandon Wynn, Columbus, Ohio, 15.750
2. Michael Squires, Edmond, Okla., 15.400
3. Alexander Naddour, Queen Creek, Ariz., 15.200
3. Steven Lacombe, Sunnyvale, Calif., 15.200
5. Jake Dalton, Norman, Okla., 15.150

Vault
1. Sean Senters, Stanford, Calif., 15.350
1. Eddie Penev, Penfield, N.Y., 15.350
3. Neal Courter, Baton Rouge, La., 15.300
4. Jake Dalton, Norman, Okla., 15.250
5. Sam Mikulak, Ann Arbor, Mich., 15.200

Parallel bars
1. Jake Dalton, Norman, Okla., 15.450
2. Sam Mikulak, Ann Arbor, Mich., 15.350
3. Sean Melton, Colorado Springs, Colo., 15.050
4. Brian Knott, New York, N.Y., 15.000
5. Adrian de los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Mich., 14.850

High bar
1. John Orozco, Colorado Springs, Colo., 15.600
1. Sam Mikulak, Ann Arbor, Mich., 15.600
3. Danell Leyva, Homestead, Fla., 15.300
4. Joshua Dixon, Colorado Springs, Colo., 15.150
5. Jake Dalton, Norman, Okla., 15.100

Biles leads women’s competition heading to final night

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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