Don’t be too fooled by all-around results.
In the tradition of the national championships, the crowning of a new national all-around champion is always one of the most appealing themes of the competition. For many of us, watching a close all-around race is a reminder of how the sport once was – when all athletes competed all the events and the drama revolved around was who would be the champion at the end of the day. But nowadays, there’s much more to the story than that.
Many of us anxiously anticipated a thrilling and heated all-around battle between Jonathan Horton and Chris Brooks, but unfortunately that duel all but ended during the first rotation of the competition when Brooks fell twice from the pommel horse. Even though Brooks probably wasn’t hoping to be sitting in 7th place after Day 1, don’t forget that he WON two events – p-bars and high bar – and is still just as much in contention for the world team as he ever was. We would never use him on pommel horse anyway, and he was obviously hampered by his ankle injury during his watered down floor routine. He did perform a great vault, reaffirming his competitive tenacity in the face of adversity.
And I seriously doubt Steven Legendre dreamed about being in 23rd place in the all-around after Day 1; in fact four out of his six scores were in the dismal 13-range. But his spectacular Dragulescu (handspring double front half out) on vault – which no American has ever competed on the world stage – was big enough to erase all of his other errors. His first place score of 17.05 on that event should keep his chances for the world team very much alive. And even though he fell on a piked double Arabian on floor, his breathtaking triple twisting double back just reaffirmed that he’s still the best tumbler that the United States has ever produced. He’ll probably need to hit it tomorrow night, but his abilities on floor and vault could still be a huge asset to the team.
And it might appear at first glance that Chris Cameron and Wes Haagensen had disappointing competitions, but did they really? From an all-around perspective – yes – but from a world team perspective, they did exactly what they needed to do. Cameron placed 2nd on pommel horse with a very strong 14.85 and also put up a strong rings score for 5th place; these are the main events we might need him on. And even though Haagensen only hit three of his events really well, one of them was rings, where he placed 3rd with a very high 15.55. That was probably the most important and best individual result he could have asked for.
So enjoy the all-around race, but don’t forget about the bigger picture. Missing random events in the all-around won’t keep these guys off the world team; failing to deliver on their much needed specialties will.