There’s a lot to keep up with at this year’s Men’s Visa Championships, and that’s a good thing for Team USA. Here’s a quick look at just a few of the big stories to follow closely as the competition begins tomorrow in Hartford:
The all-around battle between Jonathan Horton and Chris Brooks
Horton may have the upper hand as he begins on floor, where he is usually very solid and can get off to a confident start. Brooks, on the other hand, will face his nemesis right out of the starting gates; beginning on pommel horse could turn into either a huge sigh of relief or his worst nightmare.
The continued expectations of 18-year-old Danell Leyva
Danell Leyva is the ‘Justin Spring” of this quadrennium…one of the best in the world on p-bars and high bar and potentially one of the best all-arounders if he can clean up and get more consistent. Is he ready to challenge for the all-around title?
The breakout year of NCAA all-around champion Chris Cameron
He might not quite be ready to challenge for the top spot, but an all-around medal is not out of the question, and neither is a world team berth if he can hit like he did during the college season this year.
The beastly pommel horse
This tenuous event will not only be a major factor in determining the all-around champion, but it will likely be the biggest focus of the men’s selection committee. Daniel Ribeiro, Alex Naddour, and Donothan Bailey may be swinging for more than the national pommel horse title…a couple of smooth rides on the horse could quickly turn into plane tickets to the world championships. Chris Cameron, Sho Nakamori, Wes Haagensen, and Glenn Ishino will also try to prove they could be used by Team USA on this event.
The veteran hold overs from Beijing
Are Kevin Tan and Joey Hagerty still contenders, or have they been replaced by their younger counterparts, like Brandon Wynn and Danell Leyva? Their experience will be put to the test tomorrow night.
The comeback of Sho Nakamori
“Clean,” “solid,” and “consistent” define this gymnast who finished 3rd all-around in 2007, but a torn ACL has kept him out of competition for the past year. Has he beefed up his difficulty during that time, and could he contribute on pommel horse?
The Lord of the Rings
Kevin Tan dominated this event during the entire last quadrennium, and it landed him a spot in multiple world championships as well as the 2008 Olympics. At age 28, he’s still around, and will have to go head to head with the new kid on the block … Ohio State’s Brandon Wynn. Will other much needed challengers emerge on rings, like Wes Haagensen, Chris Cameron, CJ Maestas, or Tim Gentry?
Teenagers John Orozco and CJ Maestas ready to shine
Seventeen-year-old Orozco already turned heads in the senior division last year, and this year he’ll be looking for a spot on the senior national team. Eighteen-year-old Maestas could be a legitimate contender on rings, an event where Team USA seriously lacks depth.
Will there be room for a floor and vault specialist on the world team? World floor finalist Steven Legendre, world vault competitor Jake Dalton, and world cup floor finalist Paul Ruggeri may all three be battling for the same spot on the squad for Rotterdam, but they’ll need to prove they can nail their complicated tumbling and vaulting under pressure.
Follow all of these stories and more as the competition gets underway!