Arguably the four most powerful tumblers and vaulters in the U.S., the chances are very high that at least one of these four men will land a spot on the world championships team in Tokyo. While Legendre and Dalton have been healthy this year, Ruggeri tore a ligament in his ankle in February and Mikulak just fractured both ankles in July. All four are on the roster for next week’s Visa Championships, however, so let’s take a closer look at each.
The Good: Strong international experience and established reputation. He’s a two-time world team member and two-time world floor finalist and has thrown possibly the hardest floor routine ever done. He’s improved quite a bit as an all-arounder as well and could be s solid backup option on a couple of other events if the U.S. team needed him.
The Bad: Although he’s made the world floor finals twice, he faltered both times and finished out of the medals. He has several different variations of his phenomenal routine and has had some trouble with consistency. Although his strength as an all-arounder has improved considerably, ideally he still would only be used in team finals on floor and vault. He’s also been beaten several times this year on his specialties by Oklahoma teammate Jake Dalton.
Steven Legendre Floor 2010 World Team Finals
Steven Legendre Vault 2010 Visa Championships
The Good: Dalton has had a stellar year, winning the Winter Cup, placing third at the American Cup, and gaining immense popularity among American fans. He’s a very strong all-arounder as well, and like Legendre, could be used in a pinch on a couple of other events, like rings or parallel bars.
The Bad: It would be difficult to use Dalton on even the preliminary day at worlds on pommel horse. The U.S. could hopefully throw his score out anyway, but he’s had more than one meltdown on this event this year, and ideally the U.S. would need to have five other guys who can compete pommel horse if Dalton makes the squad.
Jake Dalton Vault 2011 OU vs. Ohio State
The Good: Not only is he great on floor and vault, but he’s got one of the very best high bar routines in the country and a strong parallel bars routine as well. He’s proven himself internationally multiple times. His strength on high bar could potentially allow for two of these four guys to be named to the squad.
The Bad: Ruggeri suffered a torn ligament in his ankle at the Winter Cup this year and has been out of competition since. It remains to be seen if his tumbling and vaulting are at the same world-class level they were before the injury.
Paul Ruggeri Floor, Vault, P-Bars, and High Bar 2010 Toyota Cup
The Good: He won the all-around at this year’s NCAA Championships as just a freshman, defeating Legendre, Dalton, and numerous other great gymnasts. Like Dalton and Legendre, ideally he wouldn’t be used in team finals on anything but floor and vault, but he could at least be put up on Day 1 on a few events.
The Bad: Mikulak just recently fractured both ankles on his last tumbling pass at the Puerto Rico Cup in July. Although he’s on the roster for Visa’s, it would be hard to believe he’s ready to compete floor and vault. His chances may very well have to wait until next year or beyond. The 18-year-old also has very limited international experience and would be a hard sell over guys with international reputations in the year before the Olympics.
Sam Mikulak Floor and Vault 2011 NCAA Championships