Here’s one final quick rundown of my most recent London StockWatch, ranking these 15 guys as we head into the first day of Olympic Trials:
1. John Orozco
2. Danell Leyva
3. Jonathan Horton
4. Jake Dalton
5. Sam Mikulak
6. Alex Naddour
7. Glen Ishino
8. Chris Brooks
9. Brandon Wynn
10. Steve Legendre
11. Paul Ruggeri
12. Alex Buscaglia
13. David Sender
14. Joshua Dixon
15. CJ Maestas
Some highlight stories I’m looking forward to this evening:
1. Orozco vs Leyva. You can’t ask for a closer competition than the one we saw between John Orozco and Danell Leyva at the recent national championships, and we can expect a similar showdown in San Jose. It’s really just about bragging rights regarding who comes out on top in this competition, but it sure is fun to watch a good old fashioned rivalry…especially just before the Olympic Games. Both of these guys are nearing peak form and look better than ever, and both are very viable candidates for an Olympic all-around medal. It will be fun to see how this story unfolds, and the battle gets started in less than an hour.
2. Mikulak’s Magic. Sam Mikulak delivered one of the most unexpected and spectacular performances I’ve seen from a gymnast in a long time at the recent Visa Championships in St. Louis, and I’m hoping to see more of the same here in San Jose. We all knew this kid was good and was likely to be one of those young up-and-comers who made the Olympic Trials, but hardly any of us expected he would actually end up on this Olympic team. Mikulak not only proved he’s a legitimate contender for London – he even beat Jonathan Horton and wasn’t all that far behind Orozco and Leyva. I can’t wait to see what he delivers at these Olympic Trials, as he is on the verge of becoming one of the biggest Olympic upsets in U.S. history.
3. Pommel Horse Finale. This is exactly the showdown we’ve been anticipating over the last few months…in fact, over the entire quadrennium. A brief look at the last decade of U.S. men’s gymnastics reveals that pommel horse has been the make-or-break event for this team on the international stage, and this summer’s Olympic Games won’t be any different. With Orozco’s smooth swing and Leyva’s dramatic improvement on this event, this team just needs one more strong pommel horse swinger to make this team truly complete. Sam Mikulak currently fulfills this role, but there are two exciting specialists in the field – Alex Naddour and Glen Ishino – who are ready to steal his spot if he so much as makes a single error on this event. This entire Olympic selection hinges on this dramatic pommel horse saga, and the final chapter is about to begin.
4. Underdogs. Although both are U.S. veterans with world championship experience, Chris Brooks and Steve Legendre have now essentially been delegated “underdogs” in this reduced five-man Olympic selection process. Brooks has had the year of his life and Legendre is just as spectacular as ever on floor and vault, but the particular strengths of these gymnasts have unfortunately backed them into a corner with regards to making their first Olympic team. But underdogs have a funny way of surprising us during times like these, so it’s going to be exciting to watch these two try to fight their way out.
5. Big Air. It’s hard to even keep up with the tremendously spectacular tumbling, vaulting, and release skills going on among the American men these days, and this competition will feature the best of the best – AT their very best. Nearly every gymnast in this field has at least a couple of high-flying elements that do more than raise our eyebrows – they make us hold our breath. These Olympic Trials will feature some of the craziest vaults, most complicated tumbling passes, and most daring release skills we’ve ever seen from this team, and all will be performed with Olympic dreams at stake. No matter which five gymansts end up on the squad, there’s no question it’s going to be a wild ride!
Let the 2012 Olympic Trials begin!!!