The U.S. qualified behind China and Japan into the World Gymnastics Championships team final Saturday, with team leader Sam Mikulak struggling but advancing to the all-around final.
The U.S. men were weak on high bar, counting a 13.666 and a 13.633 in Nanning, China. That came after the Americans posted the top combined team score on their Achilles’ heel apparatus, pommel horse, counting zero falls over five routines.
Qualifying scores are wiped out, and gymnasts start with a clean slate for the team and individual finals. The team final is Tuesday. The all-around final is Thursday. Individual event finals are next weekend.
“The team qualified, that’s the goal,” Mikulak said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “Team finals, everyone’s going to be a little fresher. Not everyone’s doing as many events as they possibly can. Really be able to focus on perfection.”
In 2012, the U.S. qualified first into the London Olympic team final and finished fifth.
The Olympian Mikulak, the two-time reigning P&G Championships all-around winner, struggled on parallel bars (14.133) and high bar (13.633) on Saturday, though he didn’t fall.
He qualified13th for the all-around final, 4.5 points behind Japan’s four-time reigning World champion Kohei Uchimura, after qualifying second into the 2013 World all-around final, where he was a medal threat until the last apparatus and finished sixth.
Mikulak was beaten in Saturday’s all-around qualifying by countryman Donnell Whittenburg, the only U.S. man making his Worlds debut. Whittenburg was fourth in all-around qualifying.
Uchimura’s super-favorite status was boosted before Worlds with Olympic all-around silver medalist Marcel Nguyen‘s torn ACL. U.S. Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva did not compete on all six events in qualifying, keeping him out of the all-around final.
Reigning World all-around silver medalist Ryohei Kato and top British hope Max Whitlock were third among their countrymen in all-around qualifying, meaning they also did not qualify into the all-around final.
Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen, the reigning World all-around bronze medalist, is the only man other than Uchimura with a World or Olympic all-around medal to his name in the all-around final Thursday.
1. China — 362.698
2. Japan — 361.609
3. USA — 360.393
1. Kohei Uchimura (JPN) — 92.165
4. Donnell Whittenburg (USA) — 89.631
13. Sam Mikulak (USA) — 87.665
The U.S. men in position to qualify for individual event finals (top eight, maximum two per country) with one qualifying group left:
1. Danell Leyva — 15.9 (Leyva is the 2011 World champion on parallel bars)
7. Donnell Whittenburg — 15.533
2. Alex Naddour — 15.633
6. Jake Dalton — 15.183
8. Jake Dalton — 15.466 (Dalton is the 2013 World silver medalist on floor)