Men’s Selection, Day 1

Mikulak 14.5 14.9 14.15 14.6 15.35 14.25 87.75
Moldauer 14.6 14.6 14.25 14.7 14.55 13.4 86.1
Yoder 13.75 14.6 13.5 14.15 14.2 13.3 83.5
Modi 14.4 12.8 13.3 14.4 14.4 12.75 82.05
Van Wicklen 13.1 12.95 13.65 15 13.15 12.9 80.75
Bower 14.25 13.7 13 14.35 13.35 X X
Howard 13.65 X 14.55 14.05 12.7 12.3 X
Kimble X 13.5 13.6 X X 12.95 X

A few notes on what transpired at the first day of men’s selection competition yesterday, as we prepare for the final day of the selection process tomorrow at 3:30pm MT.

1) Mikulak and Moldauer are way ahead of everyone else. I wouldn’t use the scores, particularly for those two, as any kind of indication of their real-life scoring potential since they were high, occasionally to a comical degree. But compared to the rest of the selection field, they really are that far ahead of their teammates.

2) Marvin Kimble did not make his case. We’ve been waiting to see what level of competitiveness Kimble would show after missing nationals. His performances on the three events he competed on the first day were not yet at selection standard, particularly his critical HB routine where he got destroyed for an E score in the 6s—despite not falling—because of all the crazy form and late finishing positions.

Now, I’m still somewhat disposed to consider Kimble for the worlds team because of how disastrous everyone was on HB and what he potentially could score there. Even with a weak performance, his 12.950 wasn’t too different from the rest of the squad. That’s how dire things are on HB. Give me a possible 14 with the risk of a 12 over a guaranteed 13.2. I acknowledge, however, that a repeat of his HB performance on day 2 should eliminate Kimble from contention. But, if he manages a 14+…

Also hurting Kimble was the lowish score on rings, an event he would have been counted on to contribute to this team. He needed a 14 there. Right now, the US is left looking for a third good rings score, and that alters some of the selection dynamics. If only you had someone like Donnell Whittenburg competing…oh wait.

3) Yoder did the job. We all would have liked to see a slightly higher score on PH for the team’s horse specialist, but the routine nonetheless looked strong and his number still put him in the top 3 by such a margin that not outright winning horse doesn’t really change things.

Also helping Yoder’s case was a 3rd-place AA finish, comfortably ahead of Modi (or what Bower would have scored if he had done all six), while showing a “you could use this” routine on PBars and a “you might have to use this” routine on HBar.

4) Modi was…Modi. Meaning, it was an emotional roller coaster. Top-3 scores on FX and PB—and beating potential selection rival Bower on FX and VT—all made Modi look like a very solid choice for the worlds team. Right now, he’s part of the highest-scoring potential squad.

And yet, he also botched his dismount on horse and came in with a very low score on HB. Modi has the difficulty to be a potential solution for the US on high bar. He’s never going to get a high E score, but the US is grasping at straws on that event right now, and he’s definitely a straw. If he had managed to outscore Moldauer there, Modi would have looked a lot surer in a worlds team position. I still think he’s in a good place, but he needs a big day 2. A Modi disaster on Saturday would resurrect serious questions about reliability.

5) Bower did not change the narrative. Allan Bower had an OK, though unremarkable first day in which he did not place in the top 3 on any event—continuing to look like a perfect alternate without screaming his necessity for the team in a TF scenario. Pommel horse was his top-3 event at nationals, but he went just 13.7 there on day 1 this time with a large leg break. With Mikulak, Moldauer, and Yoder scoring well on horse anyway, it’s not the best place for borderline candidates to make an argument.

Mostly, I think Bower needed to beat Modi on vault and floor to say, “I’m consistent. You want me leading off floor in TF. I’m the one who can spell Mikulak on vault,” and would need to do that on day 2 to flip the script and save his case. We’ve also seen Bower get a much higher D score on rings than he did on Thursday. If that’s still a possibility, Bower is capable of looking like a TF option there on the second day, which would definitely raise his profile for selection.

6) 4th-place events. We tend to focus primarily on who is placing top-3 on events because that’s what you need for a team final, but on the first day, both Mikulak and Moldauer finished in the top 3 on every single piece. You really don’t want to have to use both of them on all six pieces in a team final in the midst of a super-long competition, so also keep looking at people who place a close 4th on various events. People who can let Mikulak not vault or Moldauer not do HB so that the team isn’t putting quite so much of the load on only two gymnasts. Placing a usably close 4th should be viewed just as significantly as placing top 3 right now.

7) Howard is on the highest-scoring team. Based on day 1 scores, at least. Most of us were questioning why Howard, more or less a rings specialist, got the nod for the selection camp. Turns out, it’s because the US kind of needs a rings specialist right now. Kimble did not pass the rings test on the first day, and there’s not a lot of rings depth beyond that. Howard would add nearly a point over other potential teams just with his rings routine.

But Van Wicklen is not far behind. With his solid Dragulescu for a 15.000 on vault, Van Wicklen made a very similar one-event argument and kept himself squarely in the mix to go to worlds for that event. Van Wicklen could seriously boost that argument by hitting a strong HB on day 2. We’ve seen Van Wicklen score near 14 this summer, and if he can do that—as well as hit his vault—then he would look like a more compelling fifth member of the team.

So, basically, everyone is legitimately still in this thing.

You’re welcome.

4 thoughts on “Men’s Selection, Day 1”

  1. I love how with the US men, the conversation of who will be on the worlds team is actually exciting and not 100% obvious, whereas with the women you almost always know who at least 4 of the 5 are (in the past 5 of the 6) pretty much a lock for worlds by the team selection camp rolls around. In terms of team prospects, I feel that the US men is falling too far behind Russia, China and Japan to be a serious threat for the team medal at worlds. They could make it happen, but it’s entirely dependent on a lot of what if scenarios coming into their favor and they tend to choke in TFs. My biggest hope is that Moldauer/Mikulak can medal individually, Moldauer is one of the few gymnasts that makes men’s gymnastics look elegant and artistic, and Mikulak is so long overdue for a world/Olympic medal individually it’s not even funny.

    1. Omg I so badly want Sam to win a medal this year.

      It’s so interesting how the US men tend to “choke” in high pressure situations while the US women are so clinical, such steely competitors. Much as I love Sam, I think having a team leader who can consistently hit, like a Jonathan Horton type, probably has something to do with it…

  2. If Whittenburg had completely skipped nationals and petitioned, do you think they would have given him a place at selection camp like Kimble? With Kimble not performing strongly, it looks even sillier that Whittenburg wasn’t given the same opportunity.

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