After podium training, Sam Mikulak, Chris Brooks seem set for all-around
It's the most coveted medal in the sport of gymnastics: the all-around Olympic gold. To get a shot at winning it, a gymnast must qualify for the final by earning a high enough score in the qualification round.
But before they even have a chance at earning that score, they have to be chosen by their team coach to compete on all six events in qualifications.
Based on the line-ups shown in the U.S. men's podium training session, Sam Mikulak and Chris Brooks got the nod and will be in the running for the all-around final.
Danell Leyva, who won all-around bronze at the 2012 Olympics and was the only U.S. male gymnast to win a medal in London, will not.
Podium training is a non-judged practice session where the gymnasts perform their routines in the Olympic Arena where the actual competition will be held. Most teams structure their podium training to simulate an actual competition, so they use the same line-ups that they'll use in the qualification round.
Mikulak and Brooks appeared in the line-up on six out of six events, while Leyva only performed on parallel bars, horizontal bar and pommel horse.
Mikulak was no surprise, as he's a four-time national champion in the all-around. Brooks was also a likely pick—he finished second behind Mikulak at the two Olympic selection events, the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. However, 29-year-old Brooks doesn't have much international experience, especially compared to Leyva. He's never competed in a world championships all-around, while Leyva has competed in three plus the Olympics.
But Leyva's performances at the Olympic selection events were so inconsistent that he was originally relegated to the role of alternate, meaning he wouldn't compete at all unless a team member got injured. That's what happened in mid-July when John Orozco tore his ACL in training.
The team coaches trusted Leyva, who had been training hard just in case, enough to ask him to take Orozco's role on the team. But they apparently did not think it was in the team's best interest to have him go up on all six events.
In an interview before the P&G Championships, Leyva said, "The goal since I’ve been 7 years old has always been to be Olympic champion. That has never been altered in any way, that’s why I’m still here.
"Yes, it was great that I won an Olympic medal, but at the same time, it wasn't the color that I wanted."
Leyva will still be a favorite for the parallel bars and horizontal bar finals, as he has won world championship medals in both events.
In the qualification round, four gymnasts from each five-member team compete on each event, and the three best scores count towards the team's score. In the team final, three gymnasts compete on each event and all three scores count.
The line-ups shown in podium training were:
Vault: Alex Naddour, Mikulak, Jake Dalton, Brooks
Parallel bars: Mikulak, Dalton, Brooks, Leyva
Horizontal bar: Dalton, Mikulak, Brooks, Leyva
Floor exercise: Naddour, Brooks, Mikulak, Dalton
Pommel horse: Leyva, Brooks, Mikulak, Naddour
Still rings: Brooks, Mikulak, Dalton, Naddour
Mark Williams, the head coach, told USA Gymnastics after training, "We’ll talk about it as a coaching staff, but I don’t foresee that we’ll see any changes to prelims" [line-ups]. We’re definitely going to see what happens from prelims for finals, but everybody did what I expected today. I was happy with the result."
Watch live as the Olympic gymnastics competition begins with the qualification round.
The U.S. men's gymnastics team will compete on Saturday, August 6 at 1:30 p.m. ET. The U.S. women's gymnastics team will compete on Sunday, August 7 at 4:30 p.m. ET