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.

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

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

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup

The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup

The U.S. women’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game