USA Men becoming stronger on pommel horse?

After taking a look at some videos from the recent Winter Cup, I’d say the answer is a resounding YES!!!

In 2008 the USA men won the Olympic bronze medal with essentially ONE strong pommel horse worker – world medalist and Olympic finalist Sasha Artemev.  The rest of the team probably wished the event never existed.  Fellow team finals performers Kevin Tan and Raj Bhavsar were mediocre; Joseph Hagerty and Jonathan Horton were a little worse, and Justin Spring didn’t even DO the event.  The Olympic selection committee had spent much of the year searching desperately for a reliable pommel horse worker, but by the time the Olympic Trials were over, there were literally NONE.  The pommel horse had successfully bucked off virtually ALL of our team’s hopes for a specialist on this event, and at first even world medalist Artemev was left off the team…with the hopes that Paul and Morgan Hamm would somehow pick up the slack.

It was only after Paul and Morgan dropped out of contention that the committee decided that Artemev would be the one to step in…and he did so in heroic fashion.  When the USA headed to its nemesis in the final rotation of the team finals, mistakes from both Tan and Bhavsar put the USA’s hopes for a medal in serious jeopardy.  Under tremendous pressure, Artemev stepped up and delivered an exciting and near flawless performance on the event that had originally dashed his Olympic hopes altogether.  His routine sealed the bronze medal for the USA – a feat that no one had truly even expected to begin with.

In 2009 Artemev was out with injury, and three-time NCAA pommel horse champion Tim McNeill, from Cal-Berkeley, stepped up to fill Artemev’s shoes on this event.  After succumbing to the pressure of the 2008 Olympic Trials process, McNeill finally proved he was ready to represent the USA and compete against the best gymnasts in the world.  He shocked many by placing 7th in the all-around and 5th in the pommel horse event finals.

But it was clear that the U.S. men would still need some backup on this event if they hope to remain on the team medal podium – and possibly challenge the Chinese and Japanese – during this quadrennial.  Some performances at the Winter Cup served notice that our country is finally developing a very strong group of pommel horse workers to support Artemev and McNeill.

Next…check out EIGHT awesome pommel horse workers to keep your eyes on!