Session 2: USA and Japan
The American men had a bit of strange day. On one hand, their pommel horse was a success, as Mikulak, Leyva, and Orozco all hit – AND it was their first event. And Mikulak showed he is back to full strength on floor and vault, showing some soaring Kasamatsu double fulls (rolled out of them to protect the ankles – smart) and fabulous tumbling on floor. In fact, he was definitely the most consistent American today, hitting all six events (if we count vault as a hit) and essentially looking the least affected by the pressure of being at the Olympic Games. He really looked just like he did at nationals and Trials – totall on his game. I think this team should use him on as many events as possible – which right now, appear to be all but rings. I even think it would be worth considering allowing him to compete rings in prelims to give him a shot at the all-around (and hold Dalton for team finals). After all, he’ll probably just score a few tenths behind Dalton and this isn’t going to matter at all on Day 1. But it doesn’t appear that Team USA is planning on doing that right now. Dalton was also looking good all day, although he landed his first vault a bit shorter than you’d like to see, and he fell on his second attempt of handspring front double full. His other events were on, though, and thus Dalton pretty much did what he typically does – HIT. It was the three veterans who appeared to have some unexpected mistakes. Horton fell on a maguar on pommel horse, stopped in a handstand before his dismount on rings, and fell THREE times on a Cassina on high bar. I’d have to say that I would put up Mikulak on high bar in team finals over Horton, and I bet this is what they’re going to do. Leyva did pretty well, but fell quite short on his vault and also missed his giant diamidov 1 1/2 on the first two attempts. But it was far from a botched day. And Orozco also did well on most events, but also fell short on two vaults and came up short on a Takamoto half on high bar. Overall, I’d like to see both of these guys (and Horton as well) show the same spark and confidence they showed at the national championships.
Japan was solid, and right now appears to be the team to beat. Uchimura was typical Uchimura + a couple of scary falls. He peeled on the regrasp of a Kolman and just missed his head on the ground, though he did throw his triple twisting double separately. He also crashed an attempted triple twisting double back on floor. We can forgive him though – he’s still the best gymnast in the world and by far and away the favorite to win here in London. It would take at least a couple of catastrophes for him to be challenged. Yamamuro, the two Tanakas, and Kato all were clean and solid and appeared much more in control of their gymnastics than the Chinese did. There really wasn’t a weak spot for this team, and with Kohei behind it all, it’s hard not to say they are the favorites at this point.
Will post some thoughts on Session 3 later – about to begin!