Analyzing the U.S. Olympic men’s gymnastics team

U.S. Olympic men's gymnastics team
Getty Images
0 Comments

Every member of the U.S. Olympic men’s gymnastics team for Rio was at the London Games.

Sam MikulakJacob Dalton and John Orozco competed at the 2012 Games; Chris Brooks and Alex Naddour watched as unused alternates.

Together in Brazil, they will be tasked with putting the U.S. back on the Olympic team final podium.

That won’t be easy, considering the U.S. was a disappointing fifth at both the London Games and at the 2015 World Championships.

China and Japan are the world powers in men’s gymnastics. The U.S. is at best in the next tier with Great Britain (which actually outscored China at 2015 Worlds) and Russia.

However, the U.S. team at the 2015 Worlds was without then-injured Mikulak, Dalton and Orozco. Brooks and Naddour have stepped up since just missing the 2012 team.

Here’s a look at the five-man U.S. Olympic team and each gymnast’s credentials:

Sam Mikulak
2012 Olympian
2013/2014 World Championships team member
Four-time U.S. all-around champion

Mikulak won every national-level all-around title this Olympic cycle, but his best world championships all-around finish was sixth in 2013. He has zero individual Olympic or world medals. He missed the 2015 Worlds due to a partial left Achilles tear, but bounced back by sweeping the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials in dominating fashion in June. He’ll be counted on a majority of the events in the Rio team competition.

John Orozco
2012 Olympian
2011/2013/2014 Worlds Championships team member
2012 U.S. all-around champion

Orozco came back from a tragic 2015, the death of his mother that February and tearing his right Achilles for the second time that June. A doctor told him he would be out one year, but Orozco cut that timetable in half. His best events are parallel bars and high bar, but it looks like he’ll be needed on pommel horse. That event was his Waterloo at the London Games.

Jacob Dalton
2012 Olympian
2011/2013/2014 World Championships team member
Two-time individual world medalist (floor silver, vault bronze)

Dalton sat out the 2015 P&G Championships due to a small shoulder labrum tear that required surgery and kept him off the world championships team. 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 and still rings.

Chris Brooks
2010/2015 World Championships team member

Brooks makes his Olympic debut at age 29. He only made the 2015 World Championship team as Mikulak’s replacement. He was second to Mikulak in the all-around at the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials this month, topping the high bar and parallel bars standings. He may also be valuable on vault.

Alex Naddour
2011/2013/2014/2015 World Championships team member

Naddour, who got a London 2012 tattoo to motivate him for Rio, made the eight-man pommel horse final at the last two world championships. His strength on that apparatus, historically the U.S.’ weakest event, will be an asset in Rio. He will likely also be needed on still rings and floor exercise.

MORE: Mikulak wins Olympic Trials; Leyva left off Olympic team

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
Getty
0 Comments

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

0 Comments

One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!