Stephen Nedoroscik did what no American has before him: win a world title on pommel horse.
The 22-year-old gymnast’s accomplishment on Saturday night in Kitakyushu, Japan, was notable for several reasons:
Of the six men’s artistic gymnastics events, the U.S. has long been weakest on pommel horse. Its only previous world medals on the apparatus are Kurt Thomas‘ silver in 1979 and Sasha Artemev‘s 2006 bronze.
Nedoroscik’s win came in a pommel horse final that, somewhat shockingly, included two Americans.
The U.S. last won a men’s world title in any event 10 years ago when Danell Leyva topped the parallel bars podium.
This was Nedoroscik’s first world championships and the biggest meet of his career to date.
Perhaps most significant, he wasn’t wearing the trademark goggles he has worn at every competition since receiving them during in a Secret Santa gift exchange his freshman year at Penn State.
He forgot them, Nedoroscik told media in Kitakyushu.
“I’m kind of in shock now,” Nedoroscik said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m so proud of what I did, all the odds were against me coming here. I’ve always thought a gold medal would be possible for me. I’ve always had confidence in myself.”
As the penultimate athlete to go in the final, Nedoroscik scored 15.266 points; he had the highest execution at 8.766.
China’s Weng Hao and Japan’s Kazuma Kaya tied for silver, earning 14.9 points.
Kaya earned the Olympic bronze medal this summer in Tokyo. The Olympic gold and silver medalists, Great Britain’s Max Whitlock and Lee Chih-kai of Chinese Taipei, did not compete at worlds.
U.S. Olympian Alec Yoder was fifth with a score of 14.766, losing a tiebreaker to Kazakhstan’s Nariman Kurbanov.
Yoder was selected to the Olympic team over Nedoroscik for a sole specialist spot this summer; he was sixth in Tokyo.
Both Americans scored higher in qualification on Wednesday when Nedoscik’s 15.366 was second and Yoder’s 15.3 third. Weng qualified in first with 15.6 points.
Olympic all-around silver medalist and vault world champion Rebecca Andrade of Brazil was arguably the most successful gymnast in Saturday’s finals.
The 22-year-old had the top score on vault with a two-vault 14.966 average for her first world title. Italian Asia D’Amato was second and all-around world champion Angelina Melnikova of Russia third.
Later in the night, Andrade was second on uneven bars, beating China’s Luo Rui in the tiebreaker. Luo’s teammate Wei Xiaoyuan won gold with 0.1 advantage.
Italy earned three men’s medals in the remaining two finals.
Nicola Bartolini won floor exercise for his country’s first world title on the apparatus, followed by Kazuki Minami of Japan and Finland’s Emil Soravuo. It was the first world medal for all three.
China’s Lan Xingyu won still rings. Marco Lodadio of Italy took silver for his third consecutive world medal in the event. Teammate Salvatore Maresca and Russian Grigory Klimentev tied for bronze; they had the same difficulty and execution scores.
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