Donnell Whittenburg

U.S. adds 2 medals at gymnastics worlds; 42-year-old finishes 5th

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Two rookies added medals for the U.S. at the world gymnastics championships in Montreal on Saturday.

Jade Carey, who was not an elite-level gymnast a year ago, earned silver on vault. Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, a 42-year-old who has competed at a record seven Olympics, finished fifth, missing a medal by one tenth of a point.

All five gold medalists on Saturday were repeat champions from two years ago — Russian Maria Paseka (vault), Japanese Kenzo Shirai (floor exercise), Chinese Fan Yilin (uneven bars), Brit Max Whitlock (pommel horse) and Greek Eleftherios Petrounias (still rings).

The U.S. men wrapped up their worlds with one medal — Yul Moldauer‘s bronze on floor — their lightest medal haul since 2010.

Frenchman Samir Aït Saïd, who horrifically broke his left leg in Rio, missed his first world medal by .008 on rings.

Worlds conclude Sunday with five more apparatus finals (broadcast schedule here). All-around champion Morgan Hurd goes on balance beam and Carey on floor exercise.

No American men qualified for Sunday’s high bar, parallel bars or vault finals.

Women’s Vault
GOLD: Maria Paseka (RUS) — 14.85
SILVER: Jade Carey (USA) — 14.766
BRONZE: Giulia Steingruber (SUI) — 14.466
4. Ellie Black (CAN) — 14.416
5. Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) — 14.366
6. Wang Yan (CHN) — 14.35
7. Shallon Olsen (CAN) — 14.233
8. Sae Miyakawa (JPN) — 13.8

The top three went unchanged from qualifying to final. Paseka is now a repeat world champion after bagging vault silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics. Carey beat Paseka on execution but was behind on difficulty.

Chusovitina, who was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in May, came close to earning her 11th career Olympic or world vault medal and first since 2011.

Men’s Floor Exercise
GOLD: Kenzo Shirai (JPN) — 15.633
SILVER: Artem Dolgopyat (ISR) — 14.533
BRONZE: Yul Moldauer (USA) — 14.5
4. Bram Verhofstad (NED) — 14.333
5. Tomas Gonzalez (CHI) — 14.266
6. Donnell Whittenburg (USA) — 14.166
7. Manrique Larduet (CUB) — 14.1
8. Kim Hansol (KOR) — 14.1
9. Milad Karimi (KAZ) — 13.266

Shirai, the 21-year-old known as the “Twist Prince” for his unmatched aerial moves, became the first man to repeat as world champion on floor since Russian Alexei Nemov in 1999. He finished his routine with his signature move, a quad twist. Shirai, now with three world titles on floor, was shockingly fourth in Rio. None of the Rio medalists were in Saturday’s final.

Moldauer, the 21-year-old U.S. all-around champion, earned a medal at his first worlds with the highest execution score and lowest difficulty. Whittenburg, the Olympic alternate built like a linebacker, struggled with the landings of his first two tumbling passes.

Uneven Bars
GOLD: Fan Yilin (CHN) — 15.166
SILVER: Elena Eremina (RUS) — 15.1
BRONZE: Nina Derwael (BEL) — 15.033
4. Anastasiya Iliyankova (RUS) — 14.9
5. Elisabeth Seitz (GER) — 14.766
6. Diana Varinska (UKR) — 14.583
7. Luo Huan (CHN) — 14.566
8. Ashton Locklear (USA) — 12.766

Fan was the only returning woman from a four-way tie for gold at the 2015 Worlds. Also missing were all three Olympic medalists — Aliya MustafinaMadison Kocian and Sophie Scheder.

Locklear, who battled Kocian for an Olympic spot last year, tearfully came off the high bar. She is the only member of the four-woman U.S. team with worlds experience, having finished fourth on bars in 2014.

Pommel Horse
GOLD: Max Whitlock (GBR) — 15.441

SILVER: David Belyavskiy (RUS) — 15.1
BRONZE: Xiao Ruoteng (CHN) — 15.066
4. Alex Naddour (USA) — 14.75
5. Harutyun Merdinyan (ARM) — 14.7
6. Weng Hao (CHN) — 14.5
7. Oleg Verniaiev (UKR) — 13.7
8. Saso Bertoncelj (SLO) — 12.966

Whitlock, Britain’s only Olympic gymnastics champion, followed his 2015 World and 2016 Olympic gold medals with another title. Whitlock, also the Olympic all-around bronze medalist, has given up competing on all six events to focus on pommels and floor exercise to prolong his career another two Olympics.

The Olympic bronze medalist Naddour hoped to challenge for gold, but he was short on his scissors to handstand. The last American man to earn a world pommel horse medal was Sasha Artemev in 2006 (bronze).

Still Rings
GOLD: Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) — 15.433

SILVER: Denis Ablyazin (RUS) — 15.333
BRONZE: Liu Yang (CHN) — 15.266

4. Samir Aït Saïd (FRA) — 15.258
5. Ibrahim Colak (TUR) — 15.066
6. Igor Radivilov (UKR) — 14.933
7. Arthur Zanetti (BRA) — 14.9
8. Courtney Tulloch (GBR) — 14.533

Aït Saïd is the story here. Fourteen months after that awful Rio vault qualification injury, the Frenchman was in medal position until Liu knocked him out by .008 on the last routine.

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Yul Moldauer falls, still wins P&G Champs; world team named

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Yul Moldauer is a grease monkey at heart. There’s something about having a tool in his hands and a problem to solve that speaks to him, a hobby he picked up from his father while growing up in Colorado.

So when the pressure rises at a gymnastics meet, Moldauer goes to what he calls his “peace zone.” To get there he takes 10 to 15 deep breaths and lets his mind drift away to a garage or a highway somewhere.

The thing is, Moldauer’s current car is pretty reliable and doesn’t require a ton of work. Kind of like Moldauer’s gymnastics.

Staked to a 1.95-point lead heading into second and final day of the P&G Championships on Saturday night, Moldauer overcame a shaky start to hold off Oklahoma teammate Allan Bower and capture the all-around title.

The 20-year-old posted a two-day total of 171.6, a full point better than Bower and nearly two points clear of Olympic alternate Donnell Whittenburg. He leads the six-man team for October’s world championships in Montreal.

“I’m definitely still a little shocked,” Moldauer said.

Joining Moldauer on the world team is Whittenburg, plus Olympians Sam Mikulak and Alex Naddour and other world rookies Marvin Kimble and Eddie Penev.

There is no team event at worlds. Just individual all-around and apparatus finals.

P&G CHAMPS: TV Schedule | Final Five Updates | Results

Maybe he shouldn’t be. Moldauer, who in 2016 became the second freshman to win the NCAA all-around, began the year with an impressive win over Olympic all-around silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev at the AT&T American Cup on March 4. Now he finds himself at the forefront of the next wave for the Americans after most of the core of the national team at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics retired.

Not bad for a kid who was so lean when he arrived at Oklahoma that head coach Mark Williams worried Moldauer wouldn’t be strong enough to handle the increased difficulty at the NCAA and senior elite levels.

“It hasn’t been an issue,” Williams said. “This has been earned.”

Akash Modi, the reigning NCAA champion who has developed a friendly rivalry with Moldauer during their collegiate careers, began the night with the best chance at chasing down Moldauer but ended up fourth thanks to significant form breaks on pommel horse and high bar.

“I wouldn’t say it was a terrible day,” said Modi, who professed his love for Taco Bell on NBCSN cameras after routines. “I just wasn’t really ‘on.’ I didn’t attack.”

Naddour, the Olympic pommel horse bronze medalist, locked up a world spot with a 15.25 on pommels. Naddour made an “I see you” gesture after nailing his dismount on pommels, a nod to the rest of the field that awaits in Montreal.

“Wanted to let them know I’m coming for them,” Naddour said. “It’s not going to be easy this year.”

Whittenburg went through another uneven night but finished with a flourish, posting 14.85 on still rings and a 15 on vault to surge past Modi into third. The importance of reaching the all-around podium wasn’t lost on Whittenburg, who was the top U.S. all-arounder at 2015 Worlds but then missed the five-man Rio squad. He’s finally ready to put the disappointment behind him.

“I definitely feel the confidence and the energy going up for me,” Whittenburg said.

Mikulak, recovering from an Achilles tear in February, finished second on pommel horse and third on high bar to make a compelling case to high-performance director Brett McClure that he’s healthy enough to contribute to the world team.

Mikulak’s injury, however, prevented him from competing in the all-around after winning the last four national titles. Mikulak ceded the stage to Moldauer and Modi.

Moldauer talked about the need to just focus on the little picture and not the big one after taking a substantial lead on the first night of competition Thursday. Maybe, but he appeared jittery during the start of finals. He sailed off the high bar on his first event, scoring a 12.8 that briefly opened the door for the rest of the field.

“I told myself it’s one event,” said Moldauer, whose lead dropped to .65. “I have five other events I can make points on.”

And he did, putting up a 14.95 on floor exercise that equaled the best of the night and put him firmly back in control. Needing only to avoid a total collapse on parallel bars to win, he could hear his teammates clapping as he neared his dismount. Moldauer nearly shorted it, his left leg hitting one of the bars on the way down. When his feet hit the mat and stuck, he raced to embrace Williams and celebrate a title that should make him a force in the program as he enters his prime.

While Williams, the Olympic team coach last summer, knows there’s another level for Moldauer to reach. A national championship is an important step in the process.

“He’s got a certain amount of cockiness,” Williams said. “He wants to show people he’s a performer and he can do really good gymnastics.”

The P&G Championships conclude Sunday with the final day of women’s competition (7 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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Who will make U.S. men’s gymnastics team for worlds?

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Three thoughts after the first of two days of men’s competition at the P&G Championships …

1. Get to know Yul Moldauer

Moldauer, born in Seoul and adopted, leads the all-around decisively at the halfway point. He’s up by 1.95 points over NCAA rival Akash Modi going into Saturday’s final day in Anaheim (TV/streaming info here).

It’s no surprise. Not only did Moldauer win the AT&T American Cup (over Olympic silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev) on March 4, but zero Olympians are competing in the all-around this week.

The rising University of Oklahoma junior can fall on Saturday and still win the national title. He can fall multiple times and still make the six-man world championships team, which is chosen by a committee within 24 hours of the last routine Saturday.

Moldauer, 20, likely wasn’t mentioned once during Rio Olympic coverage. He was fifth in the all-around at the 2016 P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. He didn’t make the five-man Olympic team. He wasn’t even one of the three alternates. Moldauer was young, coming off an NCAA all-around title as a freshman. His Olympics would be Tokyo, not Rio.

You know Moldauer has done well if his hair is wilder than his clean gymnastics. Rather than pure strength, he admires the artistic style of 2008 Olympian Sasha Artemev, one of his coaches before enrolling at OU.

“I’m small,” the 5-foot-3 Moldauer said, “quick and sharp.”

Another six clean routines Saturday, and Moldauer is off to October’s worlds in Montreal as one of a possible two U.S. all-arounders.

P&G CHAMPS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
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2. Will there be a second all-arounder?

It’s looking like Modi or nobody at this point. The worlds in a post-Olympic year do not include a team competition, so the selection committee must decide how many of its six spots should be used on all arounders and how many on one- or two-event specialists.

In 2009, the U.S. put two men in the all-around at worlds, leaving one spot per apparatus for a specialist. In 2013, the U.S put one man in the world all-around, creating two spots per apparatus for specialists. (A nation can’t enter more than three athletes per apparatus in qualification)

Barring disaster Saturday, Modi should go to worlds in one role or another. The Olympic alternate has beaten Moldauer this year — winning the NCAA all-around title for Stanford — and came into Anaheim as a 1B to Moldauer’s 1A with the potential for more difficult routines. But Modi’s title hopes may have been dashed on his second of 12 events this weekend. He fell off pommel horse Thursday.

3. The rest of the world team?

If Moldauer and Modi are penciled in, four spots are left.

Tack on Alex Naddour, the only man in Anaheim with an Olympic medal. He took pommel horse bronze in Rio and had the highest score on the apparatus on Thursday by nearly half a point.

Two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak is not going for his fifth straight U.S. all-around title this week. He’s still coming back from a February torn Achilles. That means just two events this weekend — high bar and pommel horse. Mikulak is most valuable on the former, where he would have had the highest score Thursday if not for a half-point deduction for putting an extra, eight-inch mat down as a precautionary measure to soften his landing. What’s more, Mikulak wasn’t cleared to perform on high bar until one week ago.

Donnell Whittenburg, who made the last two world teams but not the Olympic one, leads on still rings and is capable of two monster vaults. His struggles on pommel horse and high bar Thursday shouldn’t cost him at all. He’s also tops on parallel bars aside from Moldauer and Modi.

After those five men, the clear hole is left on floor exercise. Whittenburg was once an asset here, but both Colin VanWicklen (14.6) and Eddie Penev (14.55) outscored him Thursday. VanWicklen, 21, just finished his senior year at Oklahoma. Penev, 27, is looking for his fourth worlds appearance and first since 2010, when he represented Bulgaria. The better man on Saturday might just win a trip to Montreal.

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MORE: U.S. men hit reset at P&G Championships