Although not televised, the men’s Pacific Rim Championships was a huge competition for several American men on the bubble of making this summer’s Olympic team. It’s no secret that Olympic hopefuls Jake Dalton, Chris Brooks, and Sam Mikulak were chosen for this event for the sole purpose of testing them on the international stage – together – just a few months before the official selection process begins. Of course, most of us would argue that the true Olympic selection process is already well underway, and this competition was one of the most important steps to date.
Dalton, Brooks, and Mikulak are all in similar situations as far as this Olympic selection process goes, in that none could be considered “locks” for the team, yet all have particular strengths that could potentially be very valuable. Dalton and Brooks are both pretty well proven on the international stage already, while Mikulak, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, is much more of a wild card. All three gymnasts bring slightly different strengths to the table, and that’s why this competition was so useful in seeing how these three might stack up against each other.
I’ll go through some of the key routines from each of these three guys from the Pacific Rim Championships, and then give a summary of how I believe each one currently stands in the Olympic selection process. I’ll start with Jake Dalton.
Jake Dalton Floor 2012 Pacific Rim Championships Team Finals
Same ole’ Dalton…clean, smooth, effortless, and this time with a stuck laid out double Arabian. This routine is just so solid and easy for him that it’s perfect for the Olympic team finals. I love how he doesn’t even hesitate before each tumbling pass, giving the impression he could do this routine in his sleep. I believe floor is one of the areas where the USA men could potentially outdistance themselves from China and Japan, given that we have seen both of these teams falter occasionally here in the past. Having strong mid to upper-15’s on this event like Dalton has shown he can deliver time and time again could do wonders for the USA team, particular if any of the Chinese or Japanese miss a tumbling pass under pressure. This routine is a huge asset for Team USA.
Jake Dalton Vault 2012 Pacific Rim Championships Team Finals
Although he surprisingly missed his first vault in the event finals, it’s still the most consistent and reliable 7.0 vault the USA has. Vault has typically been an event where the USA has trailed China, and Japan outscored the entire vaulting field at worlds last year with three scores in the 16’s. The USA will really need to have some 7.0 vaults in its arsenal if it wants to keep pace with China and Japan, and the options are quite limited when you consider the fact that Orozco and Leyva don’t have one, Horton is coming off of foot surgery and also missed his 7.0 vault in world team finals last year, and one of the other spots will probably need to go to a pommel horse specialist. This means the guy with the most consistent 7.0 vault is extremely valuable to this team, and right now that is Dalton.
Jake Dalton Rings 2012 Pacific Rim Championships Team Finals
This routine is one of the biggest reasons why I feel Dalton is currently on this U.S. Olympic team. This team needs a solid 15 for a third rings score, and right now Dalton is one of the very few capable of delivering that. His positions are solid, his form is very clean, and the D-score is a pretty strong 6.2. This routine scored a 15.15 – exactly where he needs to be to prove he could be used in London. He did have an uncharacteristic fall on his dismount in the event finals, but I’d have serious doubts he would let that happen again. If he keeps doing routines like this, I feel he’s one of Team USA’s very best options for a third rings score.
Overall, I feel that Dalton did what he needed to do here to prove he is one of the front runners to make this Olympic team. His role on the team would clearly be as a specialist on floor, vault, and rings, as well as a potential 4th score on p-bars and high bar during preliminaries if needed. I think it’s pretty much agreed upon he would never be used on pommel horse, so I don’t believe his scores there really matter all that much – the team will have four scores on that event without him. I would still rank him #4 on my “London StockWatch” list, behind Leyva, Orozco, and Horton. I will say that his mistakes in event finals on rings and vault here won’t be completely overlooked, but I feel these are rare enough for him that simply hitting these events his next time out will be enough to erase these errors. His floor and vault are big guns for the USA, and he has repeatedly proven his ability to compete under pressure on both of these events. Working on sticking his triple full dismount on floor could go a long way in leaving a lasting impression in the minds of the judges, as well as the selection committee. Simply landing his vault on his feet the rest of the year will continue to prove he’s America’s top vaulter. And his improved rings routine signifies he can adequately fill the third spot the USA desperately needs on this event. Jake Dalton is on my Olympic team for now, but there’s no doubt there are other contenders who could sneak in and make things very interesting.
I’ll focus on Chris Brooks in my next blog!