Analyzing the U.S. gymnastics men’s World Championships team

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INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. men’s team for the World Gymnastics Championships includes two Olympians, and five of six members have World Championships experience.

Sam Mikulak, who captured his third straight U.S. all-around title Sunday, leads the team. He’s joined by Donnell WhittenburgAlex NaddourDanell LeyvaPaul Ruggeri III and Brandon Wynn. The alternates are Chris Brooks and Marvin Kimble.

The World Championships are the last week of October in Glasgow, Scotland.

The U.S. took bronze medals at the last two World Championships with team competitions in 2011 and 2014. It has never earned team medals at three straight World Championships.

China has won every Olympic/Worlds gold medal since 2007. Japan has won every Olympic/Worlds silver medal since 2007. The U.S. could contend with host Great Britain for at least a bronze in Glasgow, should the Americans clean up mistakes from an error-filled Sunday at the P&G Championships.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura has dominated the individual all-around competition, winning every Olympic and World title since 2009. Mikulak was a medal threat in 2013 before a mistake on his last routine on high bar dropped him to sixth. He was 12th behind Uchimura in 2014.

The last American man to earn a Worlds all-around medal was Jonathan Horton, who captured bronze in 2010. Horton, 29, competed at the P&G Championships in Indianapolis, but he placed ninth in the all-around and did not make the Worlds team.

Neither did Olympian Jacob Dalton, a four-time Worlds veteran who withdrew before the P&G Championships with a small shoulder labrum tear but hoped for a spot on the Worlds team.

Here’s a look at the men who did make the Worlds team with each gymnast’s credentials:

Sam Mikulak: 2012 Olympian, 2013/2014 Worlds veteran. Mikulak is the three-time reigning U.S. all-around champion, but his résumé is missing an individual Olympic or Worlds medal. He finished fourth in the 2013 Worlds high bar final, fifth in the 2012 Olympic vault final and sixth in the 2013 Worlds all-around.

Donnell Whittenburg: 2014 Worlds veteran. Whittenburg qualified fourth into the Worlds all-around final in his debut last year but struggled under the bright lights of the final and finished 17th. He was seventh in the parallel bars final and is also strong on floor exercise, still rings and vault.

Danell Leyva: 2012 Olympian, 2009/2010/2011/2014 Worlds veteran. The Olympic all-around bronze medalist is a two-time Worlds medalist on parallel bars. He was also used on pommel horse and high bar in the 2012 Olympic and 2014 Worlds team finals.

Alex Naddour: 2011/2013/2014 Worlds veteran. Naddour has finished first or second on pommel horse at the U.S. Championships each of the last five years. He could also be used on still rings, as he was at the 2014 Worlds.

Brandon Wynn: 2010/2013 Worlds veteran. Wynn took bronze on still rings and seventh on parallel bars in his last Worlds appearance. He was second on rings at the P&G Championships and no better than ninth in the other five events.

Paul Ruggeri III: Ruggeri was an alternate for the 2010, 2013 and 2014 Worlds teams. He is the lone Worlds rookie this year. Ruggeri was second on high bar and vault and fifth on floor exercise at the P&G Championships.

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Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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