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Chris Brooks and Jonathan Horton vs. the World!

Well I was pleasantly surprised upon returning from Cambodia to see that Chris Brooks did end up winning the Winter Cup.  I say “pleasantly” because it is always exciting to see a new gymnast step up and win a major title – especially ahead of a gymnast whom many consider to be our best.  Of course Jonathan Horton wasn’t at his very best at the Winter Cup, but he wasn’t bad either.  He is certainly in good competitive shape and preparing for a major international competition – the American Cup – in just a couple of weeks.  There’s no doubt that a good ole’ fashioned rivalry is probably EXACTLY what Horton needs to push him back to his Olympic form.  Who better than former clubmate and college teammate Chris Brooks?

I’ve had the chance to see Chris Brooks on every event except for floor, but I’m guessing based on his D-score of 6.1 on floor and the fact that he’s such a strong vaulter that he’s probably quite good on that event.  Although I do feel for Tim McNeill, who had to withdraw from the American Cup since he hasn’t fully returned to full speed after recent back surgery, I was very excited to see Chris Brooks added to the field.  Not only is the entire men’s field one of the strongest ever, including Fabian Hambuechen, Daniel Keatings, Koji Yamamura, Maxim Devyatovsky, and Flavius Koczi (in addition to Horton and Brooks), but the new rivalry that seems to be developing between Brooks and Horton could be particularly intriguing.

I would guess that Fabian Hambuechen will likely be the one to beat, but when you throw in the enormous jet-lag factor that is particularly challenging at this competition because they typically only have a day or two to recover before competing, I think the Americans could possibly have the upper-hand. Remember that all five of the foreign gymnasts I listed above will be flying from Europe and Asia…all the way across the world.  Having just flown back to the U.S. from Cambodia less than two days ago myself, I can honestly tell you that I never fully understood how difficult it must be on these athletes.  I tried going to bed last night around 11:30, only to find myself tossing and turning all night.  After deciding to watch a recording of last night’s American Idol and eat a meal at around 4am, I ended up sleeping from about 6am until 2:30pm.  I’m still completely exhausted, and couldn’t imagine competing in a major competition!

Considering this major advantage for Brooks and Horton (not to mention a little bit of “home-cookin’”), I am hopefully expecting them both to be in contention to win.  Of course we’ve never seen how Brooks handles major international pressure – especially on live television – so naturally Horton will likely have quite an advantage in the experience department.  It’s so interesting to see Brooks, a former teammate of Horton’s at both Cypress Academy in Houston AND at the University of Oklahoma, going head to head with him for one of the most coveted titles in America.  Although Horton has described their rivalry as a “friendly” one, I have little doubt he would love nothing more than to regain his status as America’s best gymnast by beating his friend in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 6th.

Next, let’s take a look at some side-by-side videos of these two Americans from the recent Winter Cup!