Danell Leyva, John Orozco
Getty Images

Ten gymnasts to watch at P&G Men’s Championships; schedule

Leave a comment

Competition to determine the five-man U.S. Olympic gymnastics team begins this weekend at the P&G Championships in Hartford, Conn.

The two-day meet on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, Hartford2016.com) and Sunday (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra) mark the first of two Olympic team selection events.

P&Gs will be followed by the U.S. Olympic Trials in St. Louis on June 23 and 25, after which the five-man Olympic team will be announced.

Gymnasts can automatically qualify for the Olympic team by finishing first or second in the all-around and in the top three on three of the six individual events in combined results from four days of competition at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials. This is how John Orozco and Danell Leyva clinched their first Olympic berths in 2012.

After the Olympic Trials, a selection committee will determine the rest of the team, taking into account performances at the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The entire five-man Olympic team will be announced before June 27.

Four of the five 2012 Olympic team members, plus six more men with World Championships experience are among the gymnasts in the running for the Rio team. Here’s a look at those 10:

Chris Brooks
2010, 2015 World Championships team

Brooks, 29, competed in his second Worlds last year after three-time U.S. national champion Sam Mikulak was ruled out due to partially tearing his left Achilles. Brooks finished sixth on high bar at Worlds, just as he did in 2015. He is the U.S. champion on high bar and silver medalist on parallel bars and looking to become the oldest U.S. Olympic gymnast since 2004.

Jacob Dalton
2012 Olympian
2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 World Championships team
2013 World silver medalist — floor exercise
2014 World bronze medalist — vault

Dalton has been consistently on the top international level longer than most men on this list. His streak of Worlds appearances snapped last year, though, due to a small shoulder labrum tear that required surgery. When healthy, Dalton is a strong contributor on floor exercise, where he made the eight-man Olympic final and his last three Worlds finals, and on vault.

Steven Legendre
2009, 2013 World Championships team
2013 World silver medalist — vault

Legendre is the farthest removed from a World Championships team of anyone on this list. Like his former University of Oklahoma teammate Dalton, he is best on floor exercise — two-time Worlds finalist — and vault — 2013 World silver medal.

Danell Leyva
2012 Olympian
2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015 World Championships team
2012 Olympic bronze medalist — all-around
2011 World gold medalist — parallel bars
2014 World silver medalist — parallel bars
2015 World silver medalist — high bar

Leyva is the most decorated gymnast on this list. He has made every Olympic and World Championships team since 2009 (withdrew before 2013 Worlds due to injury). He won the 2011 U.S. all-around title and had the top score at the 2012 Olympic Trials. Leyva goes into this weekend with his left leg bandaged due to dog bites.

Sam Mikulak
2012 Olympian
2013, 2014 World Championships team

Mikulak is on a decorated list of men to win three straight U.S. all-around titles, but he missed out on the 2015 Worlds due to a partially torn left Achilles. He has returned with mixed results at the American Cup, Winter Cup and Pacific Rim Championships this year. Still, it would be a shock if Mikulak does not make a second straight Olympic team later this month.

Alex Naddour
2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 World Championships team

Naddour is valuable because he is strong on the U.S.’ weakest event — pommel horse. He made the eight-man pommel horse final at the last two World Championships and is the only active American to make an Olympic or Worlds pommel horse final. His task at the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials will be to prove his strength on some of the other five events.

John Orozco
2012 Olympian
2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 World Championships team
2013 World bronze medalist — parallel bars

Orozco, the 2012 U.S. national champion and youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s team, is coming back from a second torn right Achilles in five years. He suffered the injury June 15, was told he would be out about one year but has already competed a few times this year. If fully recovered, Orozco, who also tore his left ACL and meniscus in October 2012, is an all-around podium contender at the P&G Championships.

Paul Ruggeri III
2015 World Championships team

An alternate on the 2010, 2013 and 2014 Worlds teams, Ruggeri debuted at Worlds last year and was the lone American not to qualify for an event final. He is best on vault, high bar and floor exercise, so the return of Dalton, Mikulak and Orozco will certainly complicate his Olympic hopes this month.

Donnell Whittenburg
2014, 2015 World Championships team
2015 World bronze medalist — vault

Whittenburg, built with linebacker’s shoulders but soft-spoken, is the new American star since the London Games, finishing fourth in the all-around at the 2014 P&G Championships and second in 2015 behind Mikulak. He was the top U.S. all-arounder at Worlds, taking ninth before bagging that vault bronze.

Brandon Wynn
2010, 2013, 2015 World Championships team
2013 World bronze medalist — still rings

Like Naddour on pommel horse, Wynn is best known for one event — still rings. He finished third and fifth at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds on rings. Like Naddour, Wynn will need to improve results on some of the other five events to be more valuable to a five-man Olympic team versus a six-man Worlds team.

VIDEO: Inside Liang Chow’s gymnastics center

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir retire from ice dance competition

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the most decorated Olympic figure skaters in history, announced their retirement late Tuesday. They’re done competing in ice dance, and their upcoming Canadian tour will be their last together.

“After 22 years, it feels like the right time to step away from the sport,” Virtue said in a video. “This is so personal and emotional for both of us. … We still can’t believe people care.”

“It just feels for us like it’s the right time to say goodbye while we’re still loving and enjoying the sport as much as we always have been,” Moir said. “This is my first selfie video, and I’m not going to cry. What a beautiful ride it’s been.”

The news was expected.

Virtue and Moir last competed in PyeongChang, earning golds in ice dance and the team event to bring their total to five medals (three golds) and break the record for most Olympic medals in the sport (buoyed by the addition of the team event in 2014).

“It definitely feels like [this is our last Olympics],” Moir said on TODAY in PyeongChang, hours after their ice dance gold. “If it is, this is a great way for us to go out. … It feels right. It feels like a good end.”

Virtue, 30, and Moir 32, teamed up in elementary school. Moir, a childhood hockey player, followed brother Danny into dance, pairing with his first partner at 8 and then with Virtue and 9.

Virtue hit the ice at age 6 because she didn’t want to be the only one in her class who couldn’t skate during a field trip. When she was 7, she was paired with Moir through Moir’s aunt Carol, who coached both as singles skaters. Two years in, Virtue attended Canada’s National Ballet School for a summer before choosing to stick with skating.

That decision ultimately led to one of the greatest careers in Canadian sports history.

They earned a junior world title in 2006, the first of eight Canadian titles in 2008 and, in 2010, the biggest of all — home gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Virtue and Moir developed a rivalry with American training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with whom they traded world titles in the Sochi Olympic cycle. In Russia, the Americans edged the Canadians for the title by 4.53 points.

Moir waited until the arena emptied, returned to the rink and kissed the ice. Many thought it was a goodbye to the Olympics.

Two years later, they announced a comeback, saying they still had the fire and wanted to take advantage of one more chance to go to the Games. They won all but one of their competitions in those last two seasons, including the Olympics by a slim .79 of a point over French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Now they join the other Canadian champions of their generation — Patrick ChanKaetlyn Osmond and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford — in leaving the competitive arena for good.

“We spent 22 years coasting around the outside of the rink, hanging out together, making programs, trying to just soak up our sporting experiences,” Virtue said. “We still can’t believe people care.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Keegan Messing explains decision to hold up Japanese flag

Keegan Messing ‘glad’ to have held Japanese flag for Yuzuru Hanyu

Getty
Leave a comment

Yuzuru Hanyu heard Japan’s national anthem at the medal ceremony for his season-debut event on Saturday. But didn’t see a flag.

That’s when the bronze medalist, Keegan Messing of Canada, “took initiative” and unfurled the Japanese flag so Hanyu could honor it at the Autumn Classic in Ontario.

While there were plenty of fans of the Japanese skater in the crowd holding their own flags, none were hoisted above the ice like in some competitions.

Messing took it upon himself to hold up the Japanese flag that was hanging from a flagpole behind the medal podium.

Messing explained his decision following the interaction:

That was just actually instinct, honestly. When they said that we’re gonna play the anthem for the winner, I looked out and I realized there was no flag ready. A couple of the spectators had a flag but so I decided to hold up a flag because if I were in that place, I would’ve liked to have a flag presented at that time. That’s why I did it. I felt like that’s what I would’ve wanted so I went ahead and took initiative and I did it. I’m very happy I did. It felt good to do. I’m glad.

Hanyu is next expected to compete on the Grand Prix circuit, again in Canada in October and at NHK Trophy in Japan in November.

Messing’s assignments are Skate America in October and Cup of China in November.

The next time Hanyu’s and Messing’s paths could cross is at December’s Grand Prix Final, should they both qualify.

MORE: Yuzuru Hanyu wins Autumn Classic

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!