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Some random thoughts on the Men’s U.S. Championships…
- Jonathan Horton will be in contention for a world all-around medal for sure. I think he’ll have to improve on pommel horse to have a chance to beat Kohei Uchimura for the world title, but he’s definitely not far from it.
- David Sender has incredible character. Despite his tough-guy appearance (and gymnastics), he’s a refreshingly humble, good-hearted, and nice kid. His gymnastics on Day 1 blew me away…I think falling on his vault on the first event of Day 2 probably deflated him enough to send him on that downward spiral. Regarding his retirement, I think John Roethlisberger put it best when he said, “It’s like he finally got a date with the homecoming and queen and said well I can’t go.” My thoughts exactly!
- I don’t understand why they gave Sender a spot on both the world team and the national team after he made it abundantly clear he was retiring from gymnastics. I suppose it was the committee’s final plea to get him to reconsider. It certainly is a shame…we finally get an American male possibly capable of medaling on vault, and he walks away. He also should be our second all-arounder at worlds, where I think he could place in the top 10.
- After how extremely weak our country has been on pommel horse in the last several years – including at last year’s Olympics – our TOP TWO finishers on pommel horse at this meet (Luke Stannard and Kit Beikmann) failed to even make the national team.
- I was a bit confused at how Brandon Wynn of Ohio State made the national team. His best efforts were a 16.1 on vault in day 1 (but 14.6 on Day 2) and a 15.45 on rings in Day 2 (14.85 on Day 1). He did have the 2nd highest D-score on rings (6.9), but I would have thought our top 2 pommel horse workers would have earned the spot over him.
- The committee did seem to emphasize D-score and scoring potential over consistency with some of their decisions. Daniel Ribeiro missed pommel horse on Day 2 (14.25) and was 4th overall on that event, but was placed as an alternate on the world team ahead of top 2 finishers Stannard and Beikmann, who each hit both days. Ribeiro did show the highest D-score (6.8 on Day 1) as well as the highest individual score (15.9 on Day 1), and this likely gave him that spot.
- It was great to see Wesley Haagensen finally break through at the senior level, and he did so in a huge way. He had a tremendous all-around effort and was a surprise to many (including me) to be named as an alternate to the world team. Although I don’t see where he would fit in on the world team just yet, he has set himself up as a contender over the next couple of years. Way to go.
- I hope Jake Dalton has a real second vault, since it sounds like he will be replacing David Sender on the world team. Although he has an incredible Kasamatsu double full – which earned him the national vault title here – his second vault at this year’s J.O. Nationals was a handspring front pike. Perhaps he has something bigger in the works…
- Kyle Bunthuwong was the cleanest gymnast of the meet. Amazingly, five out of his six E-scores were above a 9.0 on BOTH DAYS (between 9.1 and 9.5 on Day 1 and between 9.0 and 9.6 on Day 2). No other gymnast in the meet could make that claim. High bar was his only weak spot, with E-scores of 7.25 on Day 1 and 8.65 on Day 2.
- I think Danell Leyva should compete as our second all-arounder at worlds. Although McNeill beat him here, I think Leyva has more potential as an all-arounder, and had he simply gotten credit for his pommel horse dismount on Day 1, he would have easily finished 2nd all-around in the whole meet – just 2 points behind Horton. This kid’s got a future in the all-around at the world or Olympic level, and I think we need to go ahead and get him out there.
- Leyva notched the highest D-scores on both p-bars (6.5) and high bar (a whopping 7.3). He’ll be a medal contender this year on high bar, and is just a couple of form breaks away from doing the same on p-bars. His jam hop to undergrip on high bar was one of the coolest skills of the entire meet. I’d say his high bar routine has more variety than anyone in the entire world right now.
- Tim Gentry’s handspring piked double front on floor was one of the coolest passes ever, and even more phenomenal as one of the last passes of his routine!
- John Orozco is another star in the making. What an incredible highlight and gutsy move to throw that full twisting double off p-bars – one of the few in the world and he’s only 16!!!
- Steven Legendre is the best tumbler in the world.
- Joseph Hagerty was a big surprise to have not made the world team – even as an alternate. That’s a great testament to how talented our team is right now…luckily he’s still on the national team, and hopefully he’ll be in the mix again next year.
- Guillermo Alvarez had a disappointing showing, breaking the 15-mark on vault alone.
- John Roethlisberger is doing an AWESOME job commentating. He’s knowledgeable, comfortable, and funny, and he makes excellent points at very appropriate times. Best of all, he’s not annoying. I think we’ll be hearing a lot from him in the future.
- It would be awesome if we actually got TWO guys into the finals on pommel horse. Let’s hope Artemev is healthy and McNeill keeps his nerves under control in the biggest meet of his life.
- I’ll continue to reiterate that U.S. men’s gymnastics is really taking off right now. With Olympic veterans Horton, Artemev, and Hagerty leading the way, exciting new talent like Leyva, McNeill, Legendre, and Haagensen, up-and-coming stars like Gentry, Ishino, Nakamori, and Orozco, and FINALLY several strong pommel horse guys in the mix, our team has NEVER looked brighter.
Hope you enjoyed these tidbits! I’ll do the same for the women in my next blog…