The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

US Men’s Selection – Day 2 Live Blog

I should start this live blog by talking through where we stand now in terms of a likely worlds team following the events of day 1, but…‾\_(ツ)_/‾????

The highest-scoring team from day 1 had neither Moldauer nor van Wicklen on it (to my mind, the #2 and #3 most likely people to make the worlds team heading into selection camp), and I don’t really know what to do with that. Is that a real possibility? Or do we just say…come on, it’s Yul…and revert back to where we were pre-Thursday?

Obviously, Moldauer was not close to 100% on the first day. He will have more leeway than others to be not at his best, but I’d still say there’s more riding on his day 2 performance than I would have thought coming into this meet. If he has another “everything hurts and I’m dying” day, he’s going to have to rely on pedigree, ability, and past accomplishments to make the team. And those arguments are compelling for him, but you never want to have to rely on just that.

Moldauer does, however, have his 2nd-place performance at nationals going for him still. The best-scoring team using peak scores on each event across nationals and the first day of selection camp would still include Moldauer (Mikulak, Moldauer, Bower, Wiskus, and Howard).

Interestingly, that group does not include Modi, but I’d still say Modi is in good shape following day 1. Modi and Bower had the most encouraging competitions on the first day (besides Mikulak, but he’s a given), so they’re largely going to want to keep that up, Modi making a HB argument and an “almost any event” argument for himself, and Bower delivering as the best non-Mikulak on vault and horse.

After the first day, I’d say the one who ranks 8th is Whittenburg after not recording a big floor number—and continuing to vault the double front. He had a good rings score, but nothing else to make his case. Without a HUGE performance today, I don’t see it for him.

Van Wicklen is an interesting case because he ostensibly did his job on the first day, hitting his Dragulescu and staying on HB, but the HB score wasn’t very high and his vault score only matched Trevor Howard’s, which meant that Howard became the more compelling option for a highest-scoring team because he had the same vault score but also brings a big rings routine, while Van Wicklen’s only argument was vault. CVW needs to create some separation on vault today, as well as outscore people like Wiskus on HB, to state his claim to a team spot. Because right now, his day 1 scores didn’t make the case, and he doesn’t have nationals scores to lean back on.

At the same time, does the US really want to show up to worlds with nothing more than a 5.2 on vault?

As a group, these 8 athletes went 47-for-48 on the first day, which was a damn miracle, but there’s nonetheless some obvious room for improvement today. In particular, the landings on floor and vault need to get better. Floor should be an asset for this US team at worlds, but not with the landings we saw on Thursday.

Today, the gang will begin on horse and rotate from there, finishing on floor.

We get started at 2:30pm MT with streaming on USAG’s YT.

We’ve definitely got nearly a baker’s dozen in the audience today.

Howard listed first on the start list for horse but isn’t doing the touch, so maybe we have a limited-event approach today rather than AA?


#1 Van Wicklen – Similar to day 1, a smoothly worked through routine with foot form and knees and whatnot, but he did the job, minimized leg breaks and just the one hesitation up to dismount.

1 routine, 1 judging delay.

12.550 is well down from the first day for him, looks like they were less happy with that hesitation up to handstand on dismount, which I didn’t think was too bad. He also lost 0.2 D compared to day 1.

#2 – Modi – an early knee crazy didn’t result in too many issues as he pulled it back together – another leg break on a travel, but otherwise kept it going comfortably. I’d classify that as normal Akash.

13.650 and a 7.550 E score, so a little down on what I expected, but he had two obvious leg things so it should have been a bit down on day 1’s score in the higher 13s.

Whittenburg also passing on PH.

#3 – Mikulak – nailed that routine. An exceptionally clean one for him, didn’t break momentum or incur leg issue deductions. Super smooth. 14.700.

#4 – Moldauer – beautiful flare work – really struggles on one pommel, losing his speed and having to muscle himself around, but he kept it going – hips drop trying to go up for handstand in his dismount. Still looking like a struggle for him today. 12.900. Yikers.

#5 – Bower – nice job keeping his ankles together, which he really has to do to show the position because he has a natural bow leg like me – good fight on one pommel through a knee break, made it very minimal – a couple more small leg breaks today than the first day but none of them significant. 14.050. Higher than day 1. I thought it would be a touch lower.

#6 – Wiskus – lovely toe point, a little sluggish on scissor elements – good speed, a bit less height and more hip angle than Bower, which will hurt the E – but really composed routine. Good hit. 13.050. He doesn’t have the D, so breaking 13 is solid for him, though it was a little better than that to me.

Mikulak – 14.700
Bower – 14.050
Modi – 13.650
Wiskus – 13.050
Moldauer – 12.900
Van Wicklen – 12.550

Bower continues to make his case as an essential pommel horse routine.


#1 – Van Wicklen – very good maltese to cross at the beginning – every time I see him do that I’m like, “why isn’t he better on rings?” but the rest doesn’t reach the same level – still, a good hit, small step back on 1.5-twisting double tuck

13.850 is a big rings score for CVW.

Does Sam know that “get juiced” means “take steroids”?

#2 – Modi – just a bit high in L cross – good flat maltese – cross, these also look high – up to an L sit – pretty secure handstands without a lot of movement – double double, a little short with a small hop.

13.750 with 5.9. Down on his first day score.

#3 – Whittenburg – being all Whittenburg – excellent cross position – a bit of shake in handstand – maltese is crisp, rises up to planche, super tough, would like to see a little more separation in those two positions – swing up to planche is great – more shudders in handstand – double double layout dismount, but short with a large lunge forward. That will hurt a score he desperately needed.

14.050 for Whttenburg. He needed at least a half point more than that.

#4 – Mikulak – another very clean routine for him – smooth cross and maltese positions (just lowers a little into his second cross out of the tucks) – small hesitation in some handstands as the rings start to twist – double double tucked, stuck. Good. 14.400. Including upping his D two tenths compared to day 1, accounting for the score increase.

#5 – Moldauer – nice initial cross position today, smoother than his routine yesterday – pikes to cross, a tad low – some hesitation in straddle planche, a little fast but fine – double double tuck, small hop. That was stronger rings than day 1 for me.

Much stronger. 14.150. Is Yul back?

#6 – Bower – lowers to a smooth horizontal cross – struggles a bit to hold a straddle planche in there, droops a little, but secure handstand, holds the stick on his double double tuck with a lean. Not the content in there but a fine showing. 13.850. Big score for him as well there. Rings scores really soaring here.

#7 – Wiskus – really secure strength positions throughout – just one hesitation in a final handstand, but a stick on his 1.5-twisting double tuck. Excellent routine.13.900 for Wiskus, same as day 1, which seems a little inconsistent to me with the rising rings scores.

#8 – Howard – looked like he was doing his job with another incredibly strong rings set – but final swing up to handstand wasn’t his strongest and he had a stagger landing on dismount with a lunge forward. Just 14.200 there. Still a good score, but he needed a great one.

Mikulak – 14.400
Howard – 14.200
Moldauer – 14.150
Whittenburg – 14.050
Wiskus – 13.900
Bower – 13.850
Van Wicklen – 13.850
Modi – 13.750

Howard loses some ground in his rings case there, as his score was not separate enough from the rings rabble to matter.


#1 – Modi – strong Kas 1.5, improvement over yesterday, hop to the side, good distance, just some knees. 14.400

#2 – Whittenburg – double front, really good double front, just a small hop back, great distance, but of course it’s still just a 5.2 start that everyone will be doing. 14.500.

#3 – Mikulak – Kas 1.5, a bit more under control than the first day, medium hop forward – strong form and direction. 14.450

#4 – Moldauer – Kas 1.5 – steps to the side and out of the area again today, probably not as large on the step this time, but still not the landing he needs. 14.350.

#5 – Bower – Kas 1.5 – great distance on his vault but not the control of yesterday, large lunge to the side and out of bounds. 14.250

Judges here reflecting the FIG reality that all vaults are the same so whatever.

#6 – Wiskus – Kas 1.5 – ohhhh NEARLY had the stick, held it for a second but had to take a little hop – some knees there but the best Kas 1.5 of the day so far for me. 14.500

#7 – Howard – double front – nails the landing on his double front again – great stick – doesn’t have the distance so there are still things to take, but an excellent performance. 14.600, no different from his 14.700 vault from the first day, though.

#8 – Van Wicklen – Drag – hits it again – similar to the first day in that he had the chest down and the step back and to the side, perhaps a little more awkward on the step than last time. 14.600. Vaults the same score as Howard again.

Howard – 14.600
Van Wicklen – 14.600
Wiskus – 14.500
Whittenburg – 14.500
Mikulak – 14.450
Modi – 14.400
Moldauer – 14.350
Bower – 14.250

Van Wicklen once again didn’t get the separation he needed, but otherwise those vault scores are pretty inconclusive since everyone is so similar.


#1 – Whittenburg – small hesitation in front toss up to handstand but small – good peach 1/2 – double back to arms, solid – stutz – high front straddle with crazy feet – tuck 1/2, good – double fornt 1/2 out, bounce back. A bit better than day 1 I’d say.

14.250. Up two tenths on day 1.

#2 – Mikulak – healy, good – peach 12, solid, just a little back looseness – catches tuck 1/2 into huge front straddle, – Bhavsar good – tippelt, crisp handstand, same on the stutz – double front 1/2 out, little hop. 15.500. AH. That’s a tad overenthusiastic for that routine to me.

#3 – Moldauer – smooth peach, just a little hesitation in peach 1/2 but nice hs position – diam is good – hitting his tuck 1/2 elements – double front 1/2 out is short, chest down with a hop forward. Still an improvement on day 1.


#4 – Bower – some muscling up to handstand out of a peach – good salto elements – a bit late on a full pirouette – tutz has a back arch but avoids walking to save it – double pike, clean, stuck. 14.000 is a tad enthusiastic for that routine for me, but it was a solid hit.

#5 – Wiskus – good front toss to hs – peach – good height on tuck 1/2 – diam pretty good finish position – high front straddle – bhavsar, hit – tippelt, comfortably up to handstand – double front, bounce forward, but still a very strong routine.

14.650, also well up on his score from day 1.

#6 – Howard – peach to one and healy down, works it out this time – had an arch and a little walk on hs positions – tuck 1/2 elements are good, nice height – double front got a little low, hop back

14.250. Everyone has been good on PBars so far, which sort of means it’s helpful to no one.

#7 – Van Wicklen – double tuck to arms, good – small hesitation in peach 1/2 but fine – some knees and feet – front straddle – double pike, chest a bit down, small hop back. Once again, some things but nothing major. His big routine of the day is coming up next.


#8 – Modi – good diam and bhavasar – tippelt, solidly up to handstand – nice hold on diam – pretty large arch on a stutz but pulls it back – double back full, fairly significant bounce backward.

Important score for Modi to get through with 14.450. Thought it was going to be lower than that.

Mikulak – 15.500
Wiskus – 14.650
Modi – 14.450
Moldauer – 14.300
Howard – 14.250
Whittenburg – 14.250
Van Wicklen – 14.100
Bower – 14.000


#1 – Mikulak – big Cassina and a fingertip Kolman – does the Liukin and hits it – layout tkatchev to tkatchev 1/2 and it’s crazzzzzzzy awakrd catch and then his body goes 17 different directions swinging out of it – but it counts as a hit, so his hit streak is still on – double double layout, short with a hop.

Not going into the hall of fame, but it doesn;t matter for him at this point. 14.000

#2 – Moldauer – Yam, toes came very close to that bar but fine – tka 1/1, very late – tak 1/2, solid vertical but a back arch – Kovacs and falls. Well drat. finishes with a perfect and stuck DLO 1/1 of course.


#3 – Bower – Yam, some body pike – Kovacs, caught – layout tkatchev, some feet – tkatchev, hit – tak 1/1, quite late – tak 1/2 also quite late – DLO 1/1, a bit of pike but similarly stuck. 13.550 is a big score for him on HB, with a D increase over day 1.

#4 – Wiskus – Cassina, caught – Kolman a little close with some muscle swing out of it – the legs on both –  high Kovacs – hop full – “keep it crispy” – DLO double, some mushy legs in there – step back. 13.650 with a  5.7 D score.

#5 – Howard – tak 1/1 and a pretty solid finishing position – tak 1/2, pretty close to vertical as well – layout tkatchev – tkatchev – tkatchev 1/2, smoothly swinging through – giant with hop release flair – DLO 1/1, some knees with a hop back. On the bar, that’s about as well as he can do a routine.


#6 – Van Wicklen – Yam – 1/2 turn is pretty awkward – attempts a Kolman and it’s not close – fall – oof – he’s not going to have the scores from this camp to get himself on the team. Layout tkatchev to tkatchev to tkatchev 1/2, all well hit – tak 1/2 – DLO 1/1, pretty and stuck. Great finish, but that fall was significant.


#7 – Modi – Yam, nice height, legs on catch – layout tkatchev to tkatchev 1/2 – tak 1/2, nice vertical – tkatchev – layout tkatchev 1/2 – healy, some back position and lateness – DLO double, bounce back. The knees things, but really nice amplitude on all those releases and an important routine.

13.950. HUGE score for him. The way this is going, how can you not take that routine?

If things continue, he’s going to come really close to getting an automatic spot for himself (2nd AA combined nats/camp and top 3 on 3 events), but not quite. I think he’ll be 2nd AA and top 3 on 2 events, and 4th on another couple events.

#8 – Whittenburg – tak 1/2, good finish position – hop full – layout tkatchev 1/2, catches with some crazy feet – layout tkatchev, hit – Yam 1/2, super super huge – Yam, similar amplitude – doubel double layout, hop back. Knees and hip angles aplenty, but that was a good hit for him.

13.550 for Whittenburg. Well now.

Mikulak – 14.000
Modi – 13.950
Wiskus – 13.650
Whittenburg – 13.550
Bower – 13.550
Howard – 13.100
Van Wicklen – 12.750
Moldauer – 12.500


#1 – Moldauer – punch randi, fantastic, stuck – front 2/1 to front full, short with a hop back – double arabian 1/2 out, holds the stick with a swim – 2.5 to 1/2, stuck – 2/1 side pass, stuck – 3/1, just a little short, small adjustment. Much better.

14.500. Huge floor number.

#2 – Bower – double front pike, stuck – double double tucked, a little short with a hop – front 2/1 to front tuck 1/1, stuck – 2.5 to 1/2, holds the stick – 2/1 with a swim to hold the stick – 3/1 short with a hop forward. Not quite as strong as day 1 to me but still a good hit.

14.150, so actually a better score than the first day. I felt like the landings were not as strong, still super routine.

#3 – Wiskus – double front 1/2, some knees, little slide back – double double tucked, bounce back – 2.5 to front tuck 1/1, hop forward, looked like he was close to sticking again – does stick his next pass, but a little low with some knees – 2/1, stuck – 3/1, stuck. Nice. No large errors, more hops than he would have wanted at the beginning, but good. He’s at least earned traveling alternate for me.

14.150 for Wiskus as well, big number.

#4 – Howard – double front pike, solid – front lay to double front 1/2 out, small adjustment – 1.5 double tuck, nailed it – 2.5 to front full, stuck, took that front full way out horizontally but kept it in bounds – stuck 2/1 – double arabian, nearly stuck, small hop. Another good one. 14.050.

That was an excellent first four floor routines, much better than day 1.

#5 – Van Wicklen – double front pike 1/2, just a touch short with a hop, small – front 2/1 to full, another little hop – 2.5 to 1/2, holds the stick there – 2/1, good – 1.5 to front full, hop – double arabian, hop

14.150 for him as well. Wow, everyone is 14ing.

#6 – Modi – front double pike, hop – another slide back on his second pass – sticks the third, though – russians, good control – v sit up to handstand, well held – randi, smallest adjustment – 2/1, stuck – 3/1, small hop. Good control overall, another improvement on the first day.


#7 – Whittenburg – front full to double front pike, near stick – front lay to double front 1/2 out, short with hop – double double lay – small bounce – 2.5, hop – all these hops are small, but they all exist – double double tuck, step back and OOB – double tuck full, hop.

That’s going to be all she wrote for Whittenburg’s worlds hopes, but pre-nationals I would not have expected he would get even this far.

Remember back during the first rotation when I thought scores were going to be tighter today than yesterday? LOLOLOL.

13.800. That would have counted as a good score yesterday.

#8 – Mikulak – double front pike, hop – 2.5 to double front, giant bound forward out of it – front 2/1 to front tuck full, well short with a large bounce back – it’s catching up to him in these final two routines, but the hit streak is still on – good stick on second-to-last pass though – finishes 3/1, hop back.

So it counts as 24-for-24 across nationals and selection.

And now we wait for the team?

Moldauer – 14.500
Modi – 14.200
Van Wicklen – 14.150
Wiskus – 14.150
Bower – 14.150
Howard – 14.050
Mikulak – 13.900
Whittenburg – 13.800

Mikulak – 174.300
Modi – 168.000
Wiskus – 166.900
Bower – 166.150
Moldauer – 165.350
Van Wicklen – 164.550

Howard and Whittenburg did not compete horse the second day.

Let’s start crunching some numbers.

LOL. Never mind about that Whittenburg note I just wrote. Forgot to update the floor numbers from today. Kind of makes a difference. Although he’s still pretty close.

Using the peak score recorded on each event across the two days of  selection camp, your highest-scoring team would be Mikulak, Moldauer, Modi, Wiskus, and Howard.

Just using the scores from selection camp day 2, the team would be Mikulak, Moldauer, Modi, Wiskus, Bower, with Bower replacing Howard since Howard wasn’t so much with the rings score on day 2. It’s really Moldauer’s big floor score on day 2 that got him back into the mix with these peak score selection camp teams, so really there should be no issue putting him on the team at this point. Selection camp average is really the only measure that doesn’t make Moldauer look convincing at this point.

If you use peak score across the four days, the team would be Mikulak, Moldauer, Bower, Wiskus, Howard.

What we’re seeing in these groups is the absence of Van Wicklen and Whittenburg, and I really do think it’s now tough to justify Van Wicklen on the team because the only event here where he showed a TF necessary score was vault, and it was only a couple tenths higher than what everyone was scoring, and that’s not enough to make a dent. That’s the big surprise of selection to me, that Van Wicklen’s argument now looks as unconvincing as it does.

Depending on what you prioritize, average or peak score or whatever, you’re going to come out with a different arrangement of the remaining 6, who is on the team and who is the alternate. If it were Martha, we would just be hearing the naming of a six, with the alternate to be decided 24 hours and 1 minute before qualification.


Popping back in for a moment to say that we have a worlds team—Sam Mikulak, Yul Moldauer, Akash Modi, Shane Wiskus, and Trevor Howard, with Allan Bower as the traveling alternate.

Honestly, this was also my team. Sorry Kensley. This is the team you get by using peak score recorded across the two days of selection camp, and I like using that as the standard because selection camp scores are the most recent data points you have (it’s not about who was good a few weeks ago, it’s about who is good right now), and peak score is a particularly useful metric for the US men to use. Why?

The US men are in an in-between state as a team where they’re basically guaranteed to qualify a team to the Olympics—so that’s not really a concern because duh—but they’re currently not favored to win a medal at worlds when compared to China, Russia, and Japan. So picking the safest team (i.e., the team that does best by average score) is not really relevant because putting up safer, lower difficulty routines that hit compared to riskier, higher difficulty routines that fall would maybe mean the difference between finishing 4th and finishing 5th…and what does that even matter? That’s nothing.

If the goal is to win a medal, then you need to go all out with team selection, picking the team with the highest possible score if everything goes amazingly. Because maybe, just maybe, that team with riskier, higher difficulty routines might hit.

I think it was an impossibly tough and close call for who would be the alternate among those six, with no obvious team separating itself from the others and no compelling argument for one group over another because…it’s like a tenth difference either way. To me, Bower and Wiskus looked the most likely to be relegated to that alternate spot.

IMoldauer not being at his peak on pommel horse at selection camp made Bower look super necessary, but if you bank on Yul being at full strength by worlds on pommel horse, then Wiskus providing a counting score on Pbars and HB (I’d also use him on VT in team final) adds more to the team than Bower’s pommel horse score.

But honestly, these six are so close that I have no problem with using training, even up to podium training, to finalize that team. If others are suddenly disastrous and Bower isn’t, I’d have no problem with switching things around.

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